Clark Farm teams with Carlisle School to enrich curriculum

by Karina Coombs

Farmer Andrew Rodgers talks with Carlisle School second graders when Linda Vanaria’s class visited Clark Farm on October 22. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

Despite its long history in the town of Carlisle, Clark Farm is a new field-trip destination for the students at the Carlisle School. And that is something property-owner Marjie Findlay wants to change. When she and Geoff Freeman bought the property in 2009, Findlay wanted to make sure that educational outreach was part of the vision for the farm.  She noted that the organic farm is now selling lettuce, carrots and potatoes to the school and has welcomed kindergarten through third-grade students for tours and education.

Clark Farm sits on nearly ten acres, and a very grateful Findlay and Freeman lease another ten acres from their neighbors, the Wilsons, for a total of 20 acres of agricultural land to farm. Findlay noted that the farm is planning a pick-your-own area for organic strawberries and blueberries next year. The farm is managed by Andrew Rodgers and his wife, Diana.

Elementary School Principal Dennet Sidell says that he has met with Findlay and Andrew Rodgers several times to “discuss how our teachers and students can use the farm for hands-on inquiry-based learning.”  He goes on to say that, “We are just in the beginning stages, but both [Superintendent] Joyce [Mehaffey] and I believe that this partnership will be extremely beneficial to our students.”

Mehaffey is looking into ideas for involving the older students. She says, “The middle school teachers are very impressed with the opportunities the Clark Farm can provide. Ideas such as art projects, writing opportunities and those more related to farming have all been discussed. We are in the process of determining how to proceed.”

Mehaffey noted, “Additionally, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony there were refreshments, including veggies and dip. All of the vegetables came from the Clark Farm! This is the beginning of a wonderful connection.”

Students walk to farm

On the crisp fall morning of October 22, 17 students from Linda Vanaria’s second-grade class at the Carlisle School walked to Clark Farm for a tour of the facilities with Rodgers and Findlay.

Rodgers stopped on a hill overlooking the farm and explained to the students what they would see that morning. He is clearly the right person for the job of farmer and educator. As he walked the group through a Christmas tree farm on the property, he explained that everything on the farm had a purpose, including both people and animals. He warned them about touching the portable electric fences surrounding the animals and instructed them not to pet the farm’s hard working dog, a Border Collie, named Chase.

Border Collie a hit

Rodgers described how the dog protects the farm animals from eager predators. He also explained Chase’s job of herding the animals from place to place.  He asked, “How do you think Chase moves the animals?” and points to a student in a Star Wars sweatshirt for an answer. “What do Jedi’s use to move things?”  A few students excitedly shout out, “the force!”  “Yes!” replied an animated Rodgers. “Border Collies have mastered the force. They are good with their eyes and can make the animals move just by focusing on them.”  He had their complete attention as he continued to explain Chase’s work on the farm.

As the small group made its way around the farm, the children listened as Rodgers explained how he cares for the chickens and how they return the favor by producing good eggs and meat. He held up a broken piece of seashell he had picked up off ground and explained they were used to provide the birds with a natural source of calcium, while introducing concepts of organic farming. Rodgers then held up a clump of grass, pointed to a flock of sheep and clearly explained how the quality of the grass affected the quality of the animal that eats it. He told the students that the farm received compost from the school’s composting program and used it to help fertilize the grass. “Do a good job scraping your plates at the cafeteria. Think of this,” as he led them to a row of carrots they would eagerly help harvest for the school. ∆