On Tuesday I attended my first PASA field day. These are all-day educational programs typically hosted by PASA member farms. Tuesday’s event was hosted by Pennypack Farm and focused on farm-based educational programs.
Pennypack is an awesome CSA farm in Montgomery County, just north of Philadelphia. I actually considered an apprenticeship there before settling on Wyebrook. The farm occupies a few acres on the property of the College Settlement of Philadelphia. The setup is very similar to what the Delaware Nature Society has with Coverdale farm and their CSA (where I work when I’m not at PASA). College Settlement brings in campers and one component of their experience is touring (and working on, time permitting) the farm and learning about food production.
And that’s what we were there to talk about: farm-based education.
Peggy Eppig was the guest speaker. She works with the Farm-Based Education Network and the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation. While Peggy was clearly the expert, she did a wonderful job engaging the group in discussions about the current state of farm-based educational programs, what works and what doesn’t, and what can be improved.
There are infinitely more complexities to making farm-based education programs viable than I ever would have imagined. For example, most farm-based education programs rely on school field trips. But field trips are expensive and schools are hesitant to shell out money for a play day on a farm. Farms need to tailor their programs to state or federal standards (such as STEM, Next Gen science, etc.) to make them more appealing to schools and to help educators see the relevance and value in such trips.
To me a farm visit seems inherently valuable. What could be more important than knowing where your food comes from and how to grow it? I may only have a year of agricultural experience under my belt, but successful agriculture is steeped in science. Biology, chemistry, ecology. All of it. You get economics & PR on the marketing side of things. Physical fitness is clearly a key component. Our nation was built by farmers so there’s your history lesson. There isn’t much educationally that doesn’t apply to agriculture. Maybe music. While that is obvious to me, it isn’t so to most. That’s why it is so important to structure programs in a way that makes their value apparent.
The day itself was great. We spent the morning talking about educational programs. After lunch we shadowed one of College Settlement’s camp groups on a tour of the farm to see what “real life” farm-based education looked like. The day concluded with a follow-up discussion based on what we talked about in the morning and what we’d experienced on the tour.