by Sanne Kure-Jensen
For decades, families and students have visited Shelburne Farms to connect with animals, meet farmers and learn about the natural environment. After attending a program, families often enjoy a casual stroll across the extensive grounds. Many visit the farm’s gift shop to pick up some farmhouse cheddar cheese. Guests at the Inn at Shelburne Farms’ public restaurant can enjoy farm-raised organic produce, site-baked breads and pastries or grass-fed meats.
More than 3,600 members provides a strong base of support for the nonprofit organization, while its team of 17 educators offer programs from on-farm field trips to summer camps, preschool programs and year-round events. The various programs reach over 24,000 children each year.
Everyone loves a parade! Families gather every morning for the Chicken Parade in the Children’s Farmyard, mid-May to mid-October. Cat Wright, Family Program coordinator and farm-based educator, emceed the parade at a recent ‘ABCs of Farm-Based Education’ workshop, leading a chicken song as the chickens and rooster strutted down their runway.
In addition to chickens, the Children’s Farmyard has pigs, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, alpacas, turkeys, and dairy and beef cows.
On the first May Sunday, 500 to 700 farm visitors meet the spring calves and their amazing Brown Swiss moms on Dairy Day. Visitors can watch the calves get their afternoon milk, see the moms being machine-milked in the parlor, take a wagon ride, then head over to the Farm Barn to see how cheesemakers produce the farm’s award-winning farmhouse cheddar cheese.
Visitors love the cow parade portion of Dairy Day, where Farmer Sam Dixon introduces each cow by name as she strolls down the pasture lane and enters the parlor for her afternoon milking. He describes the cows’ personality and habits — ‘Tempest’ likes to roll in the mud or ‘Shazam’ likes to be tickled behind her ear.
The farm’s dairy herd is Certified Humane by the Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) organization in Herndon, VA. Farm practices conform to IFOAM’s Organic Agriculture definition.
The farm offers students and educators programs that focus on sustainability and connections to the land. School field trips to the farm and professional development workshops for educators offer hands-on experiences that foster a commitment to a healthy future. Educators expand their teaching expertise around educating for sustainability. Learn more about the Sustainable Schools Project at http://sustainableschoolsproject.org
Shelburne Farms and NOFA-VT are partners in Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day) with Food Works at Two Rivers Center. Vermont FEED works to raise schools’ and communities’ awareness about healthy food and nutrition as well as the role of Vermont farms and farmers. Educators and students learn how to rebuild healthy food systems and to cultivate links between classrooms, cafeterias, communities and local farms. Learn more at www.vtfeed.org
The farm also collaborates in A Forest for Every Classroom (FFEC). This award-winning program for K-12 teachers of all disciplines offers thought-provoking experiences, which transform classroom curricula through place-based education. In the process, educators refresh their minds and rekindle their passion for teaching.
by Sanne Kure-Jensen