Cara O’Conner heads up the Michigan State University Draft Horse Program. She has been doing this for several years, picking up where Russ Erickson left off. Mentioning Russ, he was the right guy at the right time. He was ready to retire from 30 years of teaching in the Dairy program at MSU, but he could remember how to harness a draft horse from his days of growing up on the family farm. Instead of retiring, Russ moved to the MSU Draft Horse Program when MSU accepted a team of Belgians back in 1999. These Belgians were the first drafts on campus since 1963, when everyone knew that they were no longer needed in our society. What wisdom!
Vermont has been a Farm to School pioneer, with a long history of engagement and partnership by farmers, school leaders, non-profit organizations, state agencies and local businesses. Farm to School in Vermont often advances a comprehensive agenda, working to integrate local food and farms into the cafeteria, classroom and community – or the “three C’s.” Around Vermont, various regional groups have emerged to work together around these goals and support the more than 200 schools with Farm to School efforts. Following is a series of three articles that describe farm to school efforts from different vantage points. All three authors live in Hartland, Vermont.
On November 3-5, 2011, the Farm Based Education Association (FBEA) hosted their 5th Farm Based Education Conference at the idyllic Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. This was a gathering of farmers, teachers, non-formal educators, food and farm advocates, community organizers and land conservationists, amongst others, all brought together by their collective passion: farm education. The setting could not have been better. Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit education center for sustainability, a 1,400 acre working farm, and a National Historic Landmark.
It all began 50 years ago when faculty and students appealed to UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Dean McHenry, proposing a garden project that would serve as a central gathering spot on the remote, forested campus. As legend has it, Alan Chadwick, a charismatic, somewhat cantankerous master gardener from England, chose a steep, rocky, sun-scorched slope covered with poison oak to prove a point: If students could create a garden there, they could create one anywhere. And create they did.
A trip to their grandparent’s or some relative’s farm was once something every child looked forward to. There were baby chicks, ducks, and geese to feed; there were newborn calves, lambs, and perhaps a litter of pigs to care for; cows to milk and a vegetable garden to weed and gather food that went directly to the kitchen. Children learned to appreciate wholesome, fresh food, where it came from, how it was grown, and a respect for farming.
At Terra Nova we have worked with a group of high school students to convert a one and a half acre ball field into a working farm with a fully functioning CSA. Over the course of three years 25 students have worked on the farm taking ownership over the program and driving the goals of the farm. We have expanded the CSA to 30 shares, currently grow produce for our school district, and have partnered with a local community college. The work on the farm is closely tied to the students’ education. It has given many youth the opportunity to pursue individual interests and passions pertaining to the farm all while earning credit towards their high school education.
I always enjoy Dr. Hammill’s articles on safety and training for workhorses. His words are invaluable encouragement and protection for beginning farmers and their horses. I generally agreed with everything he said in the “Ten Common Wrecks with Driving Horses” article in the Fall 2006 SFJ. I would like to add a few further thoughts on some of them.
Within the EU-funded Leader project “Horsepower – Innovation in small-scale agriculture and gardening” an online symposium took place on November 5 and 6. Hosted by Jeanette Junge, business manager of the Swedish Leader LAG PH, a total of 63 participants from 17 countries followed 14 presentations with current reports from research all-around the world, background knowledge and best-practice examples from European smallholdings.