It is important for young people to understand the crucial equation between viable agriculture and human survival. The best way to gain that knowledge is literally from the ground up. Just so, Rudolf Steiner students in grades Three, Four, Five, Six, and Ten spend a week each year at the Hawthorne Valley Farm School, in Columbia County, NY. The biodynamic farm, a working dairy, markets milk, yogurt, and cheeses. Its barns and bakery are surrounded by acres of woodland, fields, and organic gardens. Visiting classes are accommodated in the farmhouse and cheerful dining hall.
Adding the enrichment of hands-on experience to their classroom studies, our students dig, plant and weed, feed and care for horses, cows, and chickens. They learn how natural fertilizers keep the soil bountiful. Vegetables are harvested for daily meals, grain for the baking of bread. Eggs are gathered, the cows’ fresh milk is drunk, the cream churned into butter.
Beyond the lesson of where food comes from, and the labor required to create it, participation in the farm’s production makes history come alive. Farm work connects Steiner learners viscerally with the timeless ancestral effort to harness the bounties of nature and develop a responsible stewardship of the land.
Depending on grade level, students also take field trips from the Farm to explore caves, to search for fossils in a limestone quarry, and to study the geology, ecology and history of the Hudson Valley. Evenings feature songs around the campfire and other companionable activities.
The Farm experience is a memorable, invaluable part of the Steiner curriculum.