The Necessity of Diversity

My heart fills with pride when I sit down with home schoolers that attend our weekly home school farm day and participate in intense conversations about our food system. Y'all  - they GET IT! We are nearly 7 weeks in to a pilot home school program this spring and in reflecting on what has been successful about the program and what adjustments need to be made, I've enjoyed hearing the kids' perspectives. They know what's up and they are already great leaders. This fall, our home school program is going to be even better because of their input and wisdom.

This hybrid co-op program that consists of 3 year olds through 13 year olds has been the best experience for me, as a farmer. I purposely combined my background in education with my love of farming in order to help children, and adults, get involved in the slow food movement. Good food takes time to raise and grow, and it takes great planning and care of the soil in order to preserve the ability to retain nutrients in our food. This home school program has allowed me the opportunity to involve children, on a weekly basis, in the farming process.

Lessons have included topics on whole earth care, livestock care and management, pollinators, soil health and composting, gardening, and more. We will soon have demonstration cooking lessons, homesteading lessons such as fiber arts and soap making, and the children will also be given the opportunity to present on a topic that interests them at our harvest celebration on the last day. It is always my hope, when teaching anyone, that I share knowledge I have gained, while acting as a role of a facilitator. We can all learn so much from each other. This includes adults learning from children and I think I've learned as much from them as they have from me.

When I sat down with a group of home school children last week to discuss enterprises and the financial factors a farmer must take into account when choosing enterprises for their farm, I had the most amazing conversations with the kids. When discussing all areas of consideration when choosing to add layer chickens as an enterprise, the children did a great job coming up with the list of all items that have a dollar amount attached to them. Among the items were the cost of the chicks, the cost of the feed, the calculation that includes the fact that it takes approximately 5 months before they start laying eggs, the cost of the brooder, the cost of the coop, the cost of the cartons, the cost of hauling water to the coop, etc. I mentioned to them that we needed to factor in the cost of the farmer's time and expertise. I wish I would have recorded the conversation. There was an "aha!" moment at that point as the kids tried to figure out how much a farmer should make, while still allowing the calculations to work out that put the price per dozen at a point that the public would be willing to pay. 

We discussed market pricing, minimum wage, wages that consider college degrees, wages that were similar for similar lines of works, and more. It was a very mature, well-thought out discussion on the cost of real food. I merely facilitated the conversation and double checked math calculations as they considered all aspects of the enterprise. It was eye-opening for them to start at the beginning and work their way through the process. 

At the end, they ran the numbers to figure out how much money in a year would be made given a certain number of chickens that the land could handle, and they determined that a farmer cannot live on that income alone. They discovered that it is necessary for a small farmer to diversify their income streams. And yes, they came up with the word: diversify. They brainstormed different enterprises that could be added to a farm that would bring in more income. And, eventually one of the kids said to me, "you know, teaching people about farming brings in more money than the farming itself does in most cases. It makes sense that you have decided to also teach people, and not just commit to farming enterprises alone."

Ding, ding, ding, ding! This, folks, is why I am doing what I am doing. This is why I think it is SO IMPORTANT for adults and children to get involved in the food system, support local small farms, and vote with their dollars. This is why I encourage the children to share their ideas with adults about what they want from their food system. They don't want chemicals on their food that could cause worry about potential illnesses related to chemical use. They want nutrient-dense food choices. They want to have opportunities to learn how to grow and raise their own food. They want to be able to grow up healthy and strong and not have to scrutinize over every label and research the background on every company to know what foods are safe to eat. The kids deserve to grow up in a world where the norm is healthy, nutrient-dense food, free from chemicals, where the processes used support soil health and regeneration. 

This spring has just been the beginning of the journey here as we provide opportunities for children to get involved in the food system in these ways. The best is yet to come. And, look out world, because these kids are armed with knowledge and ready to speak up and teach others what they know. Here on the farm each one, teaches one. We share what we know, and we are all better for it! 

In this season of the farm, we are in an interesting predicament. We have been overwhelmed in a really great way with all of the people wanting to get involved here on the farm. We have waiting lists for nearly every opportunity we offer here. We are in need of an air-conditioned classroom space in a most desperate way. Right now, all activities take place outside in our picnic area, in the barn, in the garden, and on the pasture. Pretty soon it will be too hot for most of those areas, and we need to be able to rotate kids through a cooler space throughout the day. In some ways, the $15,000 all-or-nothing Kickstarter fundraiser seems like a huge ask, but really, we feel like it is a simple way for the community to join up with us here at Hills of Milk and Honey in providing more opportunities for us to continue the process of "each one, teach one" here on the farm. Will you help us meet our goal? It is going to take a village, as they say, to create this paradigm shift in how we participate in the food system. Your financial support, of any kind, is much appreciated. And, if you are interested in enrolling your child(ren) in our Fall 2018 Farm School Enrichment Program register now before it sells out!

Thank you,

Farmer Amy