Something Good In The World Inc

Research Projects by Earthschool Students


Something Sustainable – Local Farms

In the spring of 2011, Earth School’s Handlers of Challenge class (12-14 year olds) decided to take up a research project to determine the sustainability of local, organic farms.  They chose four farms to begin with, with the idea of adding more farms to this study in the future.  The students created a series of complex questions, and with flip-cams and clipboards in hand, traveled on a weekly basis to interview the farmers and/or educational program directors of four locations: Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown, Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, and Glynwood Farm in Cold Spring.

The following spreadsheet reflects the results of their efforts, and offers very interesting insights into the sustainable practices of each farm for comparison.  For example, you can find out which farms have composting toilets, use eco-friendly cleaning supplies, or employ alternative energy systems.  It’s also fascinating to read about the differences in each farm’s approach to composting or seed saving, and to learn about how each makes practical use of their animals as a part of the farm’s
whole living systems.

But a spreadsheet just doesn’t quite capture the spirit and sentiment of each farm, the breathtaking views, the adorable baby animals, or the inspiration that radiates from the farmers and their labors of love.  So the Handlers of Challenge students also put together a short video that you can watch at the bottom of this page, that pieces together a beautiful mosaic of what each farm has to offer, and allows you to decide which one is your favorite.

The students chose to put a series of points to each sustainable practice that each farm promoted, so that in the end, readers could see how the farms scored comparatively (Quick Chart can be viewed at the bottom of this page).  But a number doesn’t reflect the whole farm, because often the students found the entire farm’s systems and philosophies enchanting, but the farm didn’t quite have the same sustainable practices in action that another farm might have.

One question that might make you wonder is the one about using bottled water versus tap water, and the film, “Tapped.”  The Handlers of Challenge class was deeply moved by this documentary, and felt that every school should screen it for their students.  They were so happy to discover that all of the farms used filtered tap water and not bottled water, and they highly recommend that everyone watch the film to understand why.

It would be vital to note that the students had a fantastic experience during the interview process, and were hugely appreciative of the time and energies that all of the farmers took to meet with them, to tour them around, and answer their questions.  They truly admired these hard-working, dedicated people and were awed by the fruits of their efforts.  Thank you so much to Maryellen Sheehan, Shannon Algiere, Ken Kleinpeter and Margo Mullein for their participation in this research project!

In the end, the students voted on their favorite farm, in order of preference, based on a variety of reasons:

1.    Hilltop Hanover Farm naturally came up as their favorite, because they felt most at home there, being that this is where their Earth School programs are located.  But they also said that HHF felt a little more accessible, more of a community farm that they as children could participate in fully.  The fact that SGITW’s chickens range completely free and aren’t fenced in, was another reason given. 
2.    Glynwood Farm came in as a close second because of the animals, and also the entire way in which the farm was operated.  It was simply beautiful, organized, clean, professional, and they felt that the only aspect that was missing from Glynwood was accessibility to the public and educational programs for children.
3.    Stone Barns was the third favorite because of the animals, especially the pigs, and the amazing greenhouses.  The students were very interested in volunteer opportunities at this farm for their age group.   It was not their most favorite farm in part because of how the chickens were kept, and because of the focus on providing food for the restaurant (Blue Hill).
4.    Hawthorne Valley Farm came in fourth mostly because it was a rainy day when they visited, and the students admitted that the weather played a part in their inability to fairly assess this location.  They liked the cows and the farm store the most, but only saw other animals in pens or coops that day, and the weather made it impossible to see the farm fields or compost heaps.  One comment from the students about HVF was that it was difficult for them to understand the underlying philosophy of biodynamic farming.

As a result of the students’ viewing of the documentary film, “Tapped,” SGITW collaborated with Kleen Kanteen to produce BPA-free, stainless steel water bottles that sport the Something Good in the World logo and motto: Small Steps Towards a Big Difference.  These are available to donors who contribute $15 or more to SGITW.  Please visit our Contribute page to donate now!

Be on the lookout for the addition of more local farms throughout the course of the coming year!

 

Edited with care by Anya Jillson-Neuwirth, age 12

 

Interviews
Click on the links below to read the entire interview of each farmer:
* Maryellen Sheehan and Barbara Sarbin at Hilltop Hanover Farm
* Shannon Algiere at Stone Barns
Margo Mullein at Hawthorne Valley Farm
* Ken Kleinpeter at Glynwood Farm

Charts
Click on the link below to view or download the spreadsheet containing the "Farm Sustainability Comparison Chart" and the "How Green Are They - Quick Chart"
* Farm Sustainability Comparison Study