Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons on the farm. With our stunning views of the Taconic Range and the sun's movement further north, we get gorgeous foliage and even more beautiful sunsets. And the pace of work starts to slow just a bit as the grass (and weeds!) grows more slowly. It seems like you can get to a handful of delayed maintenance projects and perhaps take a breath before hunkering for winter. As a mom working in the education industry, Fall has also always been a time of change and excitement. All of these things are afoot at the farm! As a new non-profit just wrapping up our first full year of operation, we will head into our annual October Board meeting with many strategic decisions to make and a lot to celebrate. Here are a few highlights!
Running a rescue operation is both super rewarding and heartbreaking. Seeing animals thrive in a peaceful setting with attention and care is such a joy. Their coats get shinier, and they become more playful and trusting of their owners. When we envisioned the rescue, we intended to bring in animals, get them back to health, and re-home them. As I wrote on a whiteboard early on, this is one of the significant differences between a rescue and a sanctuary. Willie and Midnight, our first rescues, have thrived at the farm. As we contemplated their future, the purpose of the farm, and its programming, the difficult decision was made to re-home them. This decision was made much easier when Renee DeRagon decided for many reasons that becoming their new adoptive owner and reducing her daily commitment to the facility would be a perfect solution. It also made sense for her to adopt their pasture mate Daisy, as keeping one mini horse would not be ideal. Daisy has also thrived in her short time at the farm - with many dental visits!!!
After going through the formal process, Renee officially adopted all three yesterday. I was glad to be heading out on a work trip, so I did not have to see those minis go down the hill on the trailer. I will be listening for WIllie’s morning HEE HAW for quite some time.
Luke, the Cobble Hill Farm caretaker, myself, and some volunteers are working to improve the fencing and facilities around the stalls this fall and in several paddocks to thoughtfully accept new rescues. Stay tuned!
After a phenomenal summer of fun and learning, our partners at the North Adams Public School system are excited about the farm program's impact on the nearly 20 5th and 6th grade students and 15 7th and 8th grade students who attended. Sue Wells and one of the summer interns are still working to sift through the surveys and data to present. Still, the hands-on, outdoor, experiential learning focused on career and college pathways resonates with many middle school students. How to make measurable and meaningful progress in a summer program and how to extend its impact throughout the school year through greater integration with the school system is the next and much more significant challenge. Sue and the Superintendent of Schools, and many supportive administrators are tackling these questions now. How that impacts CHARM and its summer programs will be part of the strategic decision-making process.
One thing is obvious: the property is more prepared and outfitted than ever before to welcome students for learning experiences. So many generous donors went above and beyond that I am still speechless and a bit teary-eyed when I think about it and see it. We will figure out a way to celebrate them this fall, but also plans are already underway to expand our school year programming.
Donna Roberts, a long-time childcare provider in the region (she had an essential role in the lives of my three girls!) has been a substitute teacher in the North Adams and Williamstown School System. She has agreed to oversee and coordinate operations at the farm, including a school-visit program. Because Sue is only in town during the summer, and with my continued and necessary travel schedule (to support the work & my family!) we knew that expanding this program required having a trusted and experienced community leader on-site. We are thrilled that Donna is willing to take on that role. As many of you know, my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, has helped a bit in the baseball off-season (she lives in NYC and works for Major League Baseball) and is committed to working with Donna to build our school visit & field trip programs. If you are an educator - letters went out to all Principals and Superintendents in the region this week, and we hope to host some teacher & educator afternoon open houses this fall to show you the farm and all it has to offer.
Lastly, we moved the fourteen newest chickens to their summer & fall home in the middle of the big field. What a hoot (mixing bird metaphors!) that was. But they are happily pecking away at all that grass. To think that as a young child, I would refuse to go outside if a bird was in the yard! I guess it is not just Fall that brings about change.
Our girls are still laying eggs like crazy, and our lavender continues to bloom. Please stop by the ‘store’ - we love providing fresh eggs, potpourri and whatever else the farm decides to offer up to our neighbors.