By Kim Wass
The Farm-Based Education Association (FBEA) was founded in 2006 in Shelburne, Vermont under the guiding language outlined here. The FBEA is an extremely valuable organization and resource and we encourage all FBEIBA participants to become members of the FBEA. Last year Kim Wass attended both the FBEA conference and the FBEIBA retreat. She jotted down her reflections in an attempt to make distinctions between FBEA and FBEIBA following back to back 2011 conferences:
The Farm-Based Education Association (FBEA) formed to connect children & adults to where their food comes from and to nature in order to encourage good stewardship of the earth for future generations and to help facilitate/influence the creation of a healthy and just food system.
Farm-Based Educators Inspired by Anthroposophy (FBEIBA) formed to build capacities vital to the healthy development of children enabling them to enter the adult world with the will forces and connection to nature necessary to heal the earth. Through these capacities, the next generation will be poised to meet the challenges we face in re-creating our food system from an industrial agriculture model to one that places healthy plant and animal life as the foundation of a healthy and just food system.
Central to this philosophy is the belief that children do not have to be indoors in a classroom setting to gain knowledge. Through meaningful and practical work outdoors in the plant, animal and mineral world, children are engaging all of their senses in a more holistic approach to learning that combined with classroom time makes for a richer and more balanced educational experience. To link farm based education programs to both commercial and education farm entities will serve not only the children engaged in learning and work, but also their parents, caregivers and classroom teachers who will interact with the farm in a way that will lead to increased CSA memberships and general support and recognition of the food farms provide, their importance to the health and enhanced quality of life for local communities and pride in their contribution through and exchange of work and learning in a farm setting.
Using a place-based approach to farm based education, in urban settings the same can be achieved through school gardens and in urban gardens which are springing up in many cities, revitalizing neighborhoods and connecting healthy food with families who live in areas where there is a lack of available and affordable fresh produce.
What are these capacities we wish to build and how do we create a conversation that can begin to inform a wider audience outside the Biodynamic and Waldorf communities in an accessible and meaningful dialogue? This was one of the questions we worked with during our 3rd annual retreat held at Hawthorne Valley Farm in early November, 2011. People traveled from as far away as California to join with each other in order to share ideas around curriculum and which direction FBEIBA seeks to take.
As we shared knowledge of our positions in the field and the organizations of which we are a part, it became apparent that there are many different paths and no clear formula can be applied to all. The weekend was balanced with presentations by three leading educators in the field, musical and artistic activity in addition to practical work on the farm. In this way, the retreat mirrored the curriculum goals in a healthy farm based education program. In between, we were nourished by the Hawthorne Valley Farm staff who prepared delicious meals throughout the weekend.