I have vivid memories of a second grade school field trip to the Alfalfa Farm. The dairy farm was located 20 miles from my hometown of Winthrop, just outside of Boston, but it was an alternative universe to my impressionable, eight-year old self. To this day, when passing the farm from the highway, I recollect sitting on a stool in a dark, cool, smelly barn learning how to milk a cow and realizing there was another way of life than what I had known.
Perhaps it was that experience, along with some profound intuitive flashes received after being laid off from my soul crushing corporate job, which led me to become a part-time farm educator at Natick Community Organic Farm this past year. The hourly wage I was paid just about covered my travelling expense from the city, but it wasn’t about the money. I was determined to contribute in a meaningful way and I could think of no better way than to help kids become more connected to the natural world.
Teaching kids at a farm fell WAY outside my comfort zone. I never had kids, had never taught before, and spent only a handful of hours on a farm. Things move quickly on a farm. After a few hours of training and shadowing, I found myself standing in front of 30 pairs of young eyes for my first maple sugaring tour. There was little time for nerves to set in. I had no choice but to dive in and give it my best shot. I was relieved when the tour was over. I survived and believe the kids may have actually learned something. I was an exhilarating experience and I was proud of myself.
Each morning of my shift, I would arrive early so I could walk around and visit with the animals and see what changes had taken place since my last visit. There was always something happening – animals were born (or sadly taken away), new fields were being planted, and farmers were busily crossing items off of their never ending chores list. After a few moments of blissful peace, the school bus would arrive and out would pour dozens of rowdy, excited kids. It was then “on-time” for me for the next 75 minutes.
With each subsequent tour I became more knowledgeable and comfortable and learned how to adapt my style based on the age and dynamics of the group. The kids stole my heart. No matter how young they were, they amazed me with their insight and intelligence. There would inevitably be two or three kids that would stick by my side and share their stories with me as we walked around the farm. Sometimes they would take my hand or call me Farmer Anne. I secretly loved that.
As the school season came to an end, so did my job at the farm - just when I felt I was starting to have an impact. But if I helped to spark a bit of wonder in just one child, my time and effort would all be worthwhile. I will dearly miss my time at the farm and mostly the kids. Who knows what life will throw at me next year but perhaps when the sap starts flowing again in late winter, I’ll be back.