Thoughts on Agricultural Education: An Introduction

The spring semester has brought a new group to Farm to You NH, and with it new opportunities. I am studying Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems with a double major in Humanities, and have been given the chance to adapt this course to accommodate an agricultural education project of mine that has been underway for about two years. Over the next two months, I’ll be writing about my encounters with teachers and students in local schools.

Three years ago, I informally removed myself from the Sustainable Agriculture program to pursue work at the Organic Dairy Research Farm and in the Humanities program. My interest in agriculture was feeling the strain of my limited practical knowledge, and it seemed time to make a decision as to whether agriculture truly called to me. I indulged myself in the humanities and poured my extra energy into my work at the dairy farm.
Gradually, and without a conscious understanding of my transformation, I dropped the pretense of care for agriculture and adopted a genuine and earnest passion for it instead. I sought work beyond the dairy farm with the hope of learning more, and found a community at Barker’s Farm, then at Hickory Nut Farm, then at Springledge Farm.

Tractor Barker's .gif

Barker’s Farm in Stratham, NH

I became a formal member of the Humanities major, and slowly picked up agriculture classes again, finding this time that, with a vigor of curiosity, I was fascinated by the academics of agriculture. The broad, abstract thought of the humanities indulged my desire to discuss, to feel awe, to wildly seek knowledge of all things human, while my work at the farms grounded and humbled me, a laborer in the care of plants and animals whose importance transcended that of my schoolwork. I learned to love the work deeply, not as something oddly estranged from my love of the humanities, but as something inextricably bound to it. I found that farming—socially, spiritually, and physically—tapped into my very deepest humanity, and opened up a world of harmony and conflict. Exposure to such a world, I believe, primes an individual for self-actualization, which in turn breaks the trail to happiness. What I wish to do, as best as I am able, is to act as a guide for those who find passion in the same places as I–gardens, farms, nature, recreation, and community.


Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, a major author in the humanities and a lover of agriculture



And so this lengthy road has brought me to SAFS 679 and Farm to You NH, where I have the opportunity not only to explore agricultural education for my own benefit, but also to forge connections with local schools in the hope that UNH can offer knowledge and resources to improve school gardens, greenhouses, and school to farm and farm to school programs. With the accommodation and kindness of several teachers, I have been able to observe what goes on in classrooms at Dover Middle SchoolDover High SchoolOyster River Middle SchoolThe Cornerstone SchoolThe Putney School, and Acorn School. I have also had the opportunity to volunteer with New Hampshire Agriculture in the Classroom and teach lessons on perspectives of agriculture and soil dynamics to middle scholars in the area.


Students were given a brief lesson on oxen before they visited with them and led them through an obstacle course with the guidance of their trainer.


These experiences have given me a window through which to see the agricultural knowledge that our culture naturally bestows upon it’s youth. Hopefully they have also given a few kids a deeper understanding of and curiosity about farming. But mainly, they have worked to produce churning and conflicting thoughts in my mind about adults’ rights and duties as educators and mentors, and about how we must guide the newer members of the world.
Alas, there is not enough time to elaborate here, but there is more to come. Until then, in Writer’s Almanac style, “be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

~Anne Howard


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