Austin Jewish Academy + New Farm Institute at Green Gate Farms
Our sustainable, organic farm is a complicated web of interdependent systems. To better understand the importance of these connections, we’ve created farm stations for students to experience the whole system. Karen Kidalgo, a 5th grade teacher at AJA, has spent the past 3 years bringing her class of students out to Green Gate Farms. They spend an entire season on the farm, coming out one to two times a week, developing an expertise of the farm cycle and working on farm projects that apply to all subject areas.
For the first five weeks, we split up into groups and spend at least an hour in the morning working at each of the following stations. After this, students can choose to work at their favorite station or on a farm project. Given that students will conclude their course of study by creating a cooking show, special efforts will be made this session to support the students’ interest in sourcing locally and cooking techniques.
1. Fertility: As an organic farm, we do not purchase synthetic nitrogen, but rely upon our horse/chickens for the highest quality inputs. At this station, we gather manures from livestock areas for the compost piles.
2. Compost: Compost piles need to be fed with a mix of water, manure, food waste and leaves to create a high quality amendment. At this station, students will help with turning, watering and temperature monitoring.
3. Planting: Most of our vegetable plants get started in our greenhouse during January and February so we can plant in the fields in March. At this station, students will help with making soil, using compost, seeding and transplanting.
4. Community Supported Agriculture support: Our farm is funded primarily through CSA memberships so this station is where we harvest and prep vegetables for our customers. Students will assist the Farm Manager and staff with all aspects of food prep/delivery.
5. Sales/Marketing: The goal for our community farm is that it is an attractive, safe, and informative place for visitors of all ages. It’s important that CSA, events and camp information is readily available. At this station, students will help create and update signs/flyers as well as ensure the farm is tidy and safe using light carpentry and art skills.
Each farm visit begins with an update on the farm itself (e.g., what needs fixing, what livestock has been born, etc.) followed by a Farmer-led discussion about farm and/or sustainability issues.