Reflections on ABCs of Farm-Based Education

  • Angelica from Prior Lake, MN (center) finding how many seeds in a tomato as part of "Tomato Planet" activity from Project Seasons.
  • A crew from Benner's Farm in Setauket, Long Island draws their Farm as an introductory activity.
  • A farm educator from Colorado exchanging ideas with a fiber farmer from Vermont.
  • Four members of Food Corps attended the 2013 workshop, including a former education resident at Shelburne Farms
  • Clues in the Market Garden for the "Fabulous Five" activity from Cultivating Joy & Wonder

Angelica works a 13-acre farm called Wozupi (Dakota for “Garden”), a CSA (TSA) on tribal land in Prior Lake, Minnesota. A self-professed “non-educator,” she nonetheless conducts children’s programs for the tribe’s daycare. She wants to strengthen her teaching skills and reach out to school groups and homeschoolers.

Jackie stewards a ½ acre garden wedged between Interstate 95 and the Quinnipiac River in urban New Haven, CT. There, she offers wellness programs – in both Spanish and English – to adults with chronic disease, while her staff works with the children of these families. She wants more curriculum ideas, meaningful activities for kids, and ways to engage adults from many walks of life.

Twice a year, Shelburne Farms gathers people like this for our “ABCs of Farm-Based Education” workshop. Over the course of three days, attendees systematically (and leavened with a lot of laughter), add to their “backpacks” of activities, program ideas, and curriculum that will bolster their work. They also explore issues directly with our staff. Want to develop school field trips? Chat with Christie Nold, our School Programs Coordinator. Looking for creative ways to fundraise or address on-farm liability questions? Sit down with President Alec Webb.

The farm has years of experience to share. Yet in reality, the “experts” are already in the room. ABCs gives these folks the time, space, and encouragement to ask questions and seek answers from each other. It is invariably a fertile three days of cross-pollination, inspiration, and rejuvenation. (It’s particularly timely at the tail-end of a long winter, too!)

Ultimately, we’re building a community of people who care passionately and teach thoughtfully about the land we live on and farm, and the healthy foods that derive from it. In this way, we can reach kids in Prior Lake, and New Haven, and all across the country – far beyond the gates of Shelburne Farms. As Angelica from Prior Lake said at the end of her three days, “I showed up empty and left over flowing.”