Spring Brook Farm II
Onward to day two of our staff field trip at Spring Brook Farm in Vermont! On our first day, we observed cheesemaking, cheese aging, and dairy farms around Spring Brook. The second day was all about Farms for City Kids, Spring Brook Farm’s educational non-profit. Students from cities come to Spring Brook for a week to learn about farming, but also sneakily hone their academic skills. They visit in groups of about 25 and a few teachers from the school come along as chaperones, and this year Spring Brook will welcome about 700 students to the farm. After a few hours of seeing this amazing program at work, we all wished they did a week for adults, it looked so fun!
We started in the cow barn. There, early in the damp and cold morning, we heard Niles, one of the educators at Spring Brook, talk to a group of middle schoolers about the cows. Some of the students were a little hesitant to approach these large animals with huge heads and heavy feet. Niles, with his reassuringly calm demeanor eventually got all the kids to feed the cows, then unhook them from their stalls so they could go to the paddock outside.
After that, the students went to their next activity and we headed out on a hike called “the top of the world.” Unfortunately, we never found the right trailhead to this enticingly named path, and ended up wandering around someone’s field for a while saying, “this can’t be right? Is this right? Maybe it’s right?” Eventually, we decided it definitely wasn’t right, so we went back to the farm where Tatiana, who had given us a tour the day before, led us to the dorm to watch another lesson from Niles. The dorm was actually a beautiful, large house with a room full of tables and benches for eating on one side and a comfortable couch and fireplace on the other. The kids were cozied up on the couch wearing fluffy slippers and their new Farms for City Kids baseballs hats. Niles explained the next activity which involved categorizing random objects into the Farm, the Factory, the Natural World, or the Store depending on where the students thought it came from. The best part of this activity for us was to see how the students made their decisions, and then changed their minds once Niles started questioning them more extensively on their choice.
On the way back from the dorm, we marveled at the engagement and excitement of the students during the lesson. Tatiana told us that many students come to Spring Brook never having thought about where their food or possessions come from, much less having seen a cow or wandered through the woods. Although the students have many chores and lessons all day, they seemed to have already taken well to the outdoor farm life.
Our last activity before we left was sitting down with Jeremy, the cheese program director, to ask him anything. The conversation rambled from the environment, to the cheese business, to working with a non-profit board, to philosophies of life, farming and beyond. By the time we left that afternoon, we were tired, happy, and looking forward to getting back to the shop to share what we learned from everyone at Spring Brook Farm. It is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people doing good and making tasty cheese – what could be better??
For the love of cheese and staff field trips,