Educating the next generation of farmers



Back to the beginning. 

One of the main reasons I joined Serenbe Farms early last year, was that I could make farm education a realistic priority.

The farm has a great apprentice program with a long history of success, mainly due to the previous farm manager’s Paige Witherington and Justin Dansby’s dedication. It was here on this farm thanks to Paige and Justin that I had my first try at farming.

The ability to come back, 4 years later and take over the farm, made everything completely full circle for me. I learned how to farm here, went out into the world, applied those tactics and skills, improved my craft and own personal farming style, and then to come back to where it all began again. I remember the first few times I would give farm tours to large groups on Saturday’s after market, I would talk about my apprentices from last season with such pride and hope, and get a bit teary eyed. It was in those moments that it really hit me and I began to appreciate what joy I get in teaching others how to farm. I don’t just get to grow food and enjoy it, but I get to share this knowledge and passion with others.

I can take my experience as an apprentice and the other farms I have worked on back here and apply this to how I educate the current season’s apprentices. Farming is very much a learned skill, that is done by just plain doing, farming and growing produce. I try my best to teach everyone everything I know, but it is a process that must be built on. You most certainly have to crawl in farming before you can run. You have to understand plant families, before you can understand crop rotation.  I will never stop learning , and this is the most exhilarating part to me, and to share.

FARM EDUCATION PART II. Future farmers. 20141027_135901

All four of the farms apprentices from 2014: Jessica, Ivy, Erica and David are working on farms in the 2015 season. I am blessed to have this season’s apprentice crew: Cale, Stephanie and Grace.

In 2014 we had over 800 kids on the farm for school tours. This is not including the kids/schools we partner up with on a regular, sometimes weekly basis.

-Last year we partnered up with Clearwater Academy in Tyrone, for a few hours a week with one of their students in both the spring and fall.  We seeded in the greenhouse, weeded, and harvested.

-Last fall we started working with the Children’s House Montessori School, which is just down the street from us. Every Friday, minus holidays and science projects and wax museums, we have  a class of 14-17 kids come out for an hour in the afternoons.  They walk from the school to the farm , which is pretty fantastic. Sometimes I even escort them from school….once I showed up on the tractor 🙂 Now that its spring the kids are much more comfortable and familiar with the farm, and I get a chance to learn about each one of them.



-Erik and boys from Carolyn Barron Montessori School: These guys come out on Thursdays for 3 hours in the morning. Always such troopers and ready for any job or task. They have helped us assembly line bricks out of an old high tunnel of raised beds, dig sunchokes, weed and harvest hot peppers.  At the end of the semester last year the  Apprentices and I were invited for dinner to the school with Erik and the boys (who cooked), and it was one of the most special days of the year for me. Sitting at the table with the apprentices and then, Erik, Julian, Grayson and Ethan, another CSA member and her daughter, was pretty magical. The farm and our goal to educate others had brought everyone together for this one lovely meal.


We have to mix the education time and volunteer time with all of our student helpers, but in the end everyone wins. We have successfully: 


Mulched Garlic

Dug Sunchokes

Harvested: carrots, radishes and turnips.

Removed rocks from a new field being plowedkids

Filled Sandbags

Washed harvest bins

Cleaned up fields: drip tape, plants and all

and the list goes on……


**Many of our large school tours want to help us out, and with this we like to tackle large weeding projects for field clean up. But we have also seeded okra, and planted potatoes before!

And somehow we manage to fit all of this excitement into our regular old production farm work week. the joys of farming

I am so fortunate to be able to be a proponent of farm education and teaching the benefits of locally grown organic food. Here is to 1500 kids on the farm this year. I am hoping to expand our summer and fall program this year, as I work on building a more detailed curriculum for our school tours and try to get the word out there about our goal to educate the youth in our area about locally grown organic produce.

-Farmer Ashley


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