My Last Grass Stain Tour

Today is my last Grass Stain Tour for the year, which is a very bittersweet feeling! It is always nice to see the season wind down and have some jobs on the farm come to an end for the year, but it’s also causing me to reflect on how grateful I have been for the opportunity to lead these school tours. A few weeks ago I received a very large envelope in the mail, full of letters from a middle school class who had recently come for a tour. Each student had written to tell me five things he or she had learned while at Polyface, and had drawn me pictures of farm animals to boot! While I hold many precious memories in my heart of time spent with students here at the farm, it is so meaningful to have these tangible letters to hold on to as well.

IMG_1730[1]With family farms on the decline, and countless industrial farms that aren’t exactly visitor-friendly, kids these days don’t have a solid concept of what farming is – or what raising food entails before it gets to the grocery store. Growing up in the mid-1980’s, my only concept of a farm was from my Fisher-Price Little People farm play set – you know, the one with the plastic silo, the rotund little farmer, and the chicken who was oddly the same size as the farmer… this was what introduced me to the idea of “farming.”

IMG_1733[1]Given this early plastic concept of farming, it is with ironic delight that I have led these tours. When schools and home school groups visit, I give them lots of information about our methods and how they differ from industrial models. But I also know that beyond any facts I can give them, we’re providing them with a fresh setting and a new visual understanding of what farming can be. What an honor!

Grass Stain1

Photo by Raquel Santos

I am very grateful to the Salatin family for allowing me to nurture this program into existence. I have learned how to articulate Polyface concepts in different ways, and have grown confident in my presentation and speaking skills. But even more meaningful to me has been the fact that I was invited to invest my unique personhood – the “Brie-ness of Brie,” if you will – here at Polyface farm. And that is priceless.

(P.S. – I wrote a little bit about the tour program over on HandPicked Nation last year, if you’d like to read more.)

How about you – do you open up your farm for tourism or educational visits? What do you love about it? What are the drawbacks? If you do not currently open your farm up in these types of ways, what would make you consider it?

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About Brie Aronson

Brie Aronson came to Polyface from southern California. During college, she was diagnosed with food allergies and had to begin asking about the source of every single thing she put in her mouth. This led to an interest in all things food and she sought out a way to learn how it can be produced ethically and sustainably. Her desire is to help people shift their focus from counting calories, being intimidated by their kitchens, and being disconnected from the land to one that experiences the life-giving enjoyment of food. Having completed the internship in summer 2010, she now assists with the buying clubs and sales building, leads school tours of the farm, and will be the summer 2012 farm cook.

6 Responses to My Last Grass Stain Tour

  1. Amy DeGraff Swiney says:

    My farm is always open for anyone who is interested in visiting, and I readily talk about what we do when people ask. My “real job” is at a hospital, and I work with a lot of city people who know nothing at all about farming, so I share my knowledge with them so they can increase their knowledge about where their food comes from.

    (I too had a Fisher Price farm set. I loved the door that went “moo” when you pulled it open. I’m sure I drove my parents crazy opening and closing that door!)

  2. Old Farm Girl says:

    One of our greatness joys about have a small homestead is educating some of our missionaries when they are stateside. There is such a need for many of our friends serving on the foreign field to know how to save seeds and raise chickens and rabbits. My husband and I love it when a local guest holds a chick or bunny for the first time in their lives and it is a positive experience. Great post!

  3. crowdedacre says:

    Yes! We homeschool our kids and we offer up our farm to other families who want to add a farming/animal experience to their curriculum as well. Once our kids are old enough, I want to turn the egg portion of our business over to them so they can raise their own money for our school trips and adventures. We need to expose children to the concept of where food comes from and why it is so important to care. Love this program! Well done!

  4. Katie Benz says:

    We do not have a farm, only a 1/4 acre lot in a suburban neighborhood. But we do have chickens. Last week I brought two of our hens to a Trunk or Treat event at our church for Halloween. I was amazed how many kids mistakenly called them turkeys and several asked “what are they?”. Really? How could any child not recognize a chicken? I think your program is awesome. Many kids grow up with the impression food comes from the store, they don’t understand it beyond that. Keep up the good work:)

  5. Polyface Farms has really inspired me to become not just more aware of my foods and where they come from, but also has helped me decide I want to be a farmer! I was so excited when I found a farmer in my area who not only worked on the farm with Joel, but now uses similar techniques for his own farm. Thank you all for being a part of the solution and a part of the bigger picture. BTW I used to play with those same farm toys!

  6. You disputed many of Polyface Farms claims of sustainability. You said Joel “rejected science” or that the “math doesn’t add up” but you offered now numbers or science to back up your claims. From what I know about Polyface farms their model is sustainable if you consume a more moderate amount of meat. The way you talked about their inefficiency it almost seemed as if you were promoting factory farming or feed lots.