Waldorf Education on a Community Biodynamic Farm
On Monday, June 25, about 30 people attended a Tilth Producers/WSU walk at Sunfield Farm in Port Hadlock, Washington. Sunfield is a Waldorf School located on an 81-acre biodynamic farm. The school enrolls about 110 children in grades K thru 9. The farm is run by “Farmer Neil” and “Farmer Verity” Howe, as they are called by the schoolchildren. The farmers took us on a tour of their vegetable garden, tomato greenhouse, strawberry beds, goat barn, sheep pasture, perennials, and school buildings.
Visitors learned about Biodynamic farming and Waldorf schooling concepts, and observed the unique ways that this particular farm and school utilizes those concepts in its day-to-day operation. Waldorf and Biodynamics are both concepts created by Rudolf Steiner in the1920’s. They emphasize holistic treatment of the farm and of the child. Not all Waldorf schools are actually on farms, but the curriculum emphasizes a rooting in the earth and learning about plants, grains, textiles, and other such agricultural arts. We learned that all Waldorf school children learn to knit and crochet in 1st grade. We saw examples of wool that the Sunfield children had harvested from their own sheep and then dyed using plants from their own garden. The children also milk the goats, care for the chickens, and do tasks in the vegetable garden alongside the farmers.
Biodynamic farming practices adhere to a calendar based on the cosmos as well as specific compost preparations. We learned that the biodynamic calendar specifies that some days of the month are more conducive to planting roots, for example, while other days may be more appropriate for harvesting fruits. Farmer Verity also told us a bit about biodynamic preparations, which include manure and herbs combined inside a cow’s horn and buried for 6 months, then mixed with water and sprinkled over the fields. Farmer Neil showed us the farm’s active compost piles to which the preparations had been applied.
The crops grown at Sunfield provide both a learning experience for the schoolchildren and a product for sale. But, Sunfield doesn’t sell at farmers’ markets. Farmer Neil said that he doesn’t really like the seller/customer relationship that comes with being a market farm. He prefers the membership relationship of a CSA program. Sunfield runs a 40-to-50 member CSA, with most of the shareholders being parents of the student body. Parents also volunteer regularly on the farm. Neil and Verity both expressed their excitement that the school’s children help grow the vegetables that their parents then take home and serve to them.
Article and Photos by Becky Warner