Head of School Blog: Lessons from the Land

“Before we begin our meal tonight, raise your hand if you were involved with the harvesting, preparation, cooking, or serving of tonight’s meal.”  So begins another meal at The Farm School, “an organization of three interweaving programs spread out over the land of four old family farms.”

Last week, I enjoyed the good fortune of joining the ninth grade and their teacher chaperones up in rural central Massachusetts for several days of purposeful work that, to borrow from The Farm School’s mission, “connected people (in this case us!) to the land.”

Like most schools that invoke the term, we tend not to give much thought to the “academy” in Falmouth Academy, treating it as just another word for school.  The classical scholars among us, however, know that the original Academy was located in ancient Greece. Plato and his contemporaries would gather in gardens and olive groves on the outskirts of the city and debate the timeless questions of human existence.  The Academy, of course, is the origin of the term “academic” which has come to signify the abstract classroom study that we think of when we think of school.   

But the gardens (and pastures and barns and chicken coops) wherein the ninth graders and I spent the week were no less instructive.  We witnessed and experienced first-hand the value of careful planning and scheduling.  We came to appreciate the intricate relationship between a thorough understanding and careful stewardship of the environment and the success of the living things that depend on it.  We observed and participated in a collaborative culture of adults who were living out the adage, “Many hands make light work,” (or at least lighter work).

A few of us even found ourselves, Plato-like, sitting on a bench debating the timeless questions of human existence. If by farming, one is referring to purposeful cultivation; perhaps, it has more in common with the academy in Falmouth Academy then might be readily apparent.  

In just a few short days, we collected firewood, milked cows, scrubbed eggs, fed livestock, and lined fields for planting.  Time . . . bells, periods, drop-off/pick up times . . . seemed to stand still or at least fade into the background.  No one checked their texts or watched the latest YouTube video or ritualistically “liked” burgeoning Instagram posts.  

After all, there was work to be done.

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