Oregon Aglink is celebrating our tenth year of the Adopt a Farmer program. Each current issue of AgLink magazine will highlight important players from the early years.
In 2011, the Adopt a Farmer program transformed from an idea to a reality when three teachers in the Beaverton School District took a chance and paired with three farms for the pilot year. The pitch seemed solid from the start: pair a middle school science classroom with a farm or ranch for a field trip and multiple class visits, bringing the farm to the school and the school to the farm. With its built-in offer to fund field trips, activities, and even substitute teachers, the program seemed like a win-win for everyone.
Rebecca Hall and her team at Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School visited Willamette Egg Farms, leading to many conversations later in the school year about the scale and impact of food production. Designing the program to include classroom visits by farmer Greg Satrum meant that the students had a chance to ask further questions and better understand the whole system.
At Meadow Park Middle School, Susan Duncan saw value in the Adopt a Farmer approach: “what I really appreciated was it was a very genuine attitude of working together to help teachers meet their needs as well as helping farmers share their work of growing food and other products like grass seed.”
Paired with Doerfler Farms, Duncan’s classroom got to see wind turbines in action to better understand the importance of engineering on a modern farm. Their field trip in 2011 also took them past the buildings that had been destroyed by a recent tornado, which led to one of the scenarios in the Farming Game still used in classrooms today.
At Whitford Middle School, teacher Morgan Dill was paired with Molly McCargar at Pearmine Farms. Dill was able to translate sights (and smells) from the farm into school-based learning. From the exposure to compost piles and seed-planting relay races at the farm, she created school garden activities where students created their own compost bins and transformed their classroom into a jungle of pea vines.
Every teacher and farmer pairing have worked out their own preferences for activities and schedules, but something common to nearly all the matches from the first year was the issue of bus funding. The fact that Oregon Aglink and the Adopt a Farmer program paid to get students out on the field trips made it possible for students to experience the farms firsthand and form their own opinions. For schools like Whitford, Dill remembers that, “removing those cost barriers definitely helped and made a huge difference.”
Ten years later, the funding of field trips and classroom activities helps the school-farm matches evolve as needed.
After the egg farm, Rebecca Hall paired with Pearmine Farms and they are in their ninth year of continually-changing field trips that reflect how much a farm and its crops can shift with time. Susan Duncan introduced the Adopt a Farmer program to the nutrition and gardening teacher at her school, Cecily Capistran, who is poised to take over whenever Duncan may retire.
Finally, Morgan Dill has moved on from Beaverton and the Portland metro area to her new home near The Dalles. Rather than seeing teachers moving between schools as the end of a partnership, Adopt a Farmer staff see it as a new opportunity: excited teachers in new places mean the program will only continue to grow.
For more information on the Adopt a Farmer program and how you can volunteer or donate, please visit aglink.org or contact one of our staff members.