by Kim Wass

The 2015 FBEIBA retreat was held at the Sacramento Waldorf School with 14 participants who arrived from all parts of the country, including Tennesee, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Arizona and northern California. Our host, Steve Payne, farmer and farm-educator at the Sacramento Waldorf School, provided an idyllic setting who along with Dana Burns, (FBEIBA Coordinator) led us through a thoughtfully planned weekend that included hands-on activities, discussion and valuable informal conversation.

We arrived at the school farm in time to see the third graders finishing their lesson planting flowers in the garden. A farm-based educator’s dream, the land provides enough space to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit trees, and to raise chickens, sheep and pigs plus a green house and cold frames. The school buildings lead to the farm, whose work is woven into grades elementary through high school serving as an outstanding model for the farm based education movement.

Under a California sun, we strung marigolds, pulled up pepper vines to be composted, practiced our seed saving skills and shared stories. Our inner work included a reading, followed by discussion of Chapter 9 in Steiner’s The Study of Man to recognize and remind ourselves of how this work can meet children at each stage of their development.

After passing through the beautiful Raphael Gardens each day on our way to meals at the Rudolph Steiner College, we were treated to a tour on our last morning by Harald Hoven, Founder and Master Gardener. The gardens are supported in part by a CSA and education programs which include future farmers, school programs and more recently The Meristem Project an adult program mentored by Aonghus Gordon of Ruskin Mill.

To conclude, we share some of our guiding principles articulated at our final discussion of the weekend:

  1. Empower children and their immediate community in meeting their own needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: food/shelter, safety, love/connection, esteem, self-actualization).
  2. Build self-worth and meaning through real, necessary work with tangible outcomes and consequences.
  3. Responsibility and Respect towards our earth comes naturally from a deep connection to it.
  4. Creating an environment that fosters (demands) problem solving, forward thinking and a connection to the spiritual.