Whether still in elementary school, fresh out of college, newly retired or just looking for a break from the ‘daily grind’ of the work week, there are tractors-full of farm and food education opportunities. While some will have you reaching for your closest gardening gloves, sunscreen, and rugged outdoor enthusiasm, others require notebooks and your undivided attention.
Sowing the Seeds
For younger children and high school students, there are a variety of programs that address a desire to play in the dirt. The after-school program at Flamig Farm, in West Simsbury, Connecticut, offers first through third graders a chance to learn about chickens and eggs, while elementary students in York, Maine have the opportunity to care for farm animals and learn to cook on Rumsey Farm.
Numerous organizations cover a great range of agricultural education opportunities for children through working farms. For example, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) offers everything from local food potlucks and contra dancing, to pasture weed management workshops.
The Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts and East Hill Farm School in Troy, New Hampshire both offer three to five day field trips for schools looking for a full farm immersion. These programs are aimed at middle-school aged farm enthusiasts and provide hands-on experiences with everything from caring for farm animals to down and dirty (but rewarding) daily farm chores. The Real Food Farm, located in Baltimore, Maryland, offers hands-on farm education and field-trips for all ages that range from learning about bees, bugs, and worms to learning to love vegetables. All of these direct agricultural education programs are great ways to educate the youthful generations in ways other then through text books and lectures.
From Farm to Kitchen
With farm-oriented workshops stretching across the country, learning about farms and food can be a lifelong experience. Cornell University in New York offers a series of online courses for beginning farmers that range from planning to planting to harvesting. Appalachian Sustainability Agriculture Project (ASAP) provides family farm tours and also hosts the Marketing Opportunities for Farmers Conference (MOFF).
If you are in southeastern Vermont, Chicago, Illinois, or Seattle, Washington you can try your hand at cheese making. If you live in Ester, Alaska, than why not enroll in a two-hour long workshop in wood-fired oven bread baking?
With the end of the summer approaching there is often an excess of fruits and vegetables that need to be used quickly before they are wasted. The answer: canning, curing, pickling and fermenting! At Cider Circle Farm, located on the Vermont-New Hampshire border, an entire workshop on growing, harvesting, storing, and curing garlic, onions, and other root vegetables helps individuals carry their harvest into the winter months. There are pickling classes in Boulder, Colorado, fermentation of cabbage into sauerkraut classes in Kansas City, Missouri, and a plethora of canning workshops offered in almost every state, such as this one offered by the Piedmont Park Conservancy in Atlanta, Georgia.
For those with not as much of a green thumb, but who still enjoy agricultural activities, there are an endless amount of workshops, farm tours, and lectures across the country. The Piedmont Environmental Council, in Virginia, is holding a variety of events throughout the fall, from a Seed Saving Workshop to a “Meet Yer Eats Farm Tour” where farmers market shoppers are introduced to market farmers . Farm tours can be found from California to Nebraska, and everywhere in-between. If you like agricultural lectures, check out The New School in New York City, which includes a lecture series that includes topics such as farmland conservation.
No matter what your level of interest is in enhancing your agricultural education, there are surly a wide range of opportunities available locally. The list below is just a taste of some of the great workshops, classes, lectures, and farms that can provide enriching experiences. I hope that you take some time during this back to school season and learn more about the great farmers of the land, and maybe even start down the path of becoming one yourself! Hoop house building, anyone?
Farm and Food Education Opportunities
Alaska – Calypso Farm
Arizona – BAJA Arizona Sustainable Agriculture
Arizona – Cowboy College
California – Marin Sun Farms
Boulder, Colorado – Cure Organic Farm
Connecticut – Flamig Farm
Atlanta, Georgia – Piedmont Park
Boise, Idaho – Downtown Teaching Farm
Chicago, Illinois – Angelic Organics Learning Center
Kentucky – The Arboretum
Athol, Massachusetts – The Farm School
Florence, Massachusetts – Farm Education Collaborative
Maine – Rumsey Farm
Baltimore, Maryland – Real Food Farm
Kansas City, Missouri – Bad Seed
Nebraska – Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
New Hampshire – East Hill Farm School
New Mexico - Local Food and Agriculture Events Calendar
New York, New York – Just Food
New York, New York – The New School
Ashville, North Carolina – Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
Mandan, North Dakota – FARRMS
Oklahoma – Beginning Farmers
Portland, Oregon – Zenger Farm
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
Vermont – Ceder Circle Farm
Vermont – Dairy Foods Consultant
Virginia – Piedmont Environmental Council
Washington – Seattle Cheese Making
Wisconsin – Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
About the author: Delancey Nelson is the market manager of the Lauraville Farmers Market in Baltimore, Maryland. She has worked on numerous farms and vineyards abroad and holds a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning from the College of Charleston.