Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Farm connects class to land

Learning the value of labor at Cincinnati Country Day

By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Cincinnati Country Day student Larz Palmer, 13, digs sweet potatoes at the Turner Farm.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
INDIAN HILL - Four boys from Cincinnati Country Day School tried herding 29 sheep across an open pasture as Turner Farm worker Al Simandl followed, hollering, "Wait!"

Down the lane, other seventh- and eighth-graders were busy uprooting peonies in a roadside garden to be repotted so the soil in the flowerbed could be enriched.

Twice a week, the dozen boys and their teacher, Simon Jorgenson, walk a quarter-mile or so of tree-lined road from Cincinnati Country Day to the green mailbox that reads "Turner Farm: Organic produce" for two hours of manual labor in a new alternative program.

"These kids are not necessarily getting out a whole lot," Jorgenson said, leaning on his shovel after digging up a peony. "They're spending a lot of time staring at screens."

One reason Jorgenson started the class: Two years ago, a group of his students were so out of touch with nature that most couldn't tell him which direction the sun rose.

"They're disconnected from the land," Jorgenson said.

The program, called MS Outdoors, is an alternative to required sports at the 200-student middle school, Jorgenson said.

The students also practice Ashtanga Yoga one day a week and go on hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and rock-climbing trips.

"It's a chance for kids to understand the value of physical labor," said Bonnie Mitsui, who runs the 60-acre farm, one of the few remaining in Indian Hill. "There are a couple of valuable lessons for them to learn: where our food comes from and how it's produced."

At the sheep pen, Simandl, who oversees livestock, forced the animals single-file into a chute.

"Hi, hi goat!" said seventh-grader Larz Palmer, 13, of Hyde Park.

"They're not goats, they're sheep!" Mitsui told them.

Simandl showed the boys how to grab one of the animals by the neck, pry open its mouth and squirt in the deworming medication.

One lesson the students have learned already: Farm animals are different from pets.

After Mitsui mentioned that some of the sheep had been killed, Larz said in a disappointed tone, "Oh, you slaughtered some?"

"Yeah," Mitsui answered matter-of-factly.

Jay Levinson, 14, of Blue Ash, thinks he's learned so much that he could "practically work at a farm."

Either that, the eighth-grader said, or maybe become a software designer.


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