Ambler Farm in Wilton is one of them. For the last few years, their educational programs for elementary and middle school children have grown. Ann Bell, President of the Friends of Ambler Farm, an organization that supports the farm and its historic buildings, said these kids are getting the full farm experience. They are taught how to run a farm from collecting eggs to gardening organically to learning how to cook with the food they grow.
Since the Town of Wilton purchased the land in 1999 after the death of Betty Ambler, the last original owner, Bell said there has been great support in making the farm a big part of the community. Not only do they have an ongoing partnership with the school system, but they also sell their fresh produce and maple syrup at their own farm stand as well as at the town’s farmers’ market. Next Sunday, they will have Ambler Farm Day with hayrides and pumpkin tossing.
Other farms in the state have also turned to education as a way to stay a vibrant part of their communities. There is Terra Firma Farm in Stonington, New Pond Farm in West Redding, and Auer Farm in Bloomfield. Each of them has their own educational programs for school-aged children to teach them about life on a farm. From math to science to art, there’s something for everyone.
For a number of years there have been art, math and science programs at Holcomb Farm in West Granby. But very soon, there will be a shift in their curriculum toward science and the environment.
“We’ll be focusing on sustainable living,” said Lucy Lindeyer, Program Director at Holcomb Farm. “Gradually, our programs have sort of morphed into an environmental learning center. We’re teaching these kids how to be green ‘livers’.”
They hold a number of classes that include things like a hike in the woods to learn about seasonal changes as well as following a caterpillar on its quest to become a butterfly. Even making mud pies helps the kids learn about soil particles.
“The kids have a wonderful experience,” said Jenny Lopez, a teacher at Rawson Elementary School in Hartford. “It’s great to see the kids interact with each other and learn from each other. And the staff makes them feel really comfortable.”
It’s this kind of hands-on learning that makes farms accessible to kids. In an age where agribusiness is king and our eating habits have been highly processed for too long, the Connecticut farm has suffered. But the charm of the local farm sings a siren’s song to those who see it as an educational opportunity.
“We like to take an environmental approach and try to be a leader in the community,” said Bell. “We’re not just an educational farm. We’re a community farm. People can get their produce here or take a walk if they want.”
But the chance to wander aimlessly on a farm is dwindling. Noted in a previous article on this site, there were as many as 500 active farms in the state in 1990. By 2007, there were less than half that number. And today, we only have 151 active farms registered in the state.
That’s what makes educational farm programs so essential to school curriculums. With each child who is affected by the importance of a farming in the community, the greater chance we have of keeping them in tact.
Photo courtesy of Ambler Farm.