Springtime sets in at Oxbow in a series of magical moments. There’s the slow and steady greenhouse germination of this season’s crops, the croaking of the frogs, the rain. The return of blue herons to the oxbow lake and the nests of smaller birds hidden in the rhubarb and under the eaves of the barn.
But perhaps the MOST magical part of being at Oxbow in spring is the rekindling of the magic of our education programs. We begin welcoming tots and schools onto the farm in mid-April, and they continue coming in a steady, but very manageable, stream until mid-June, when school ends.
The slowness of our spring education season is a blessing for us in some ways—our interns are still getting up to speed and there is a LOT of farm work to be done in the off-time. But it’s also a little disappointing. Sometimes it feels like interest in farms (and, thus, enthusiasm for farm education) waxes and wanes around the hubbub of the harvest. Our mission in the spring is to teach kids that local farms are NOT one-trick, pumpkin-selling ponies.
We love big orange pumpkins as much as the next four-year-old, but we also love asparagus. And rhubarb. And pumpkin plants that don’t yet look like pumpkins! And kids need to love these things too, or at least understand that local farms exist and are productive in the other eleven months of the year. Farms are not places where food IS, they are places where food GROWS.
This process of growth is what our springtime farm tours are about. Kids sing songs about the seasons and act out a plant’s life cycle—from seed to plant to fruit and back to seed. They sow beans and take home sunflowers to plant at home, snack on dandelions and watch bees hard at work turning apple blossoms into apples.
There is less to eat in springtime, and this can be disappointing to kids who were here in the fall. Even the fare that IS available—rhubarb, chives, garlic, radishes, and some herbs—is a difficult sell for the more discerning young palettes. But this anticlimax is a teachable moment (“you know, we actually DO have carrots, they just aren’t ready to eat yet!”), and initial dismay yields to the excitement of finding freshly constructed birds’ nests, sunbathing snakes, and the frogs, slugs, and worms enjoying the dewy mornings. We hope these kids go home with a better understanding of the careful processes at play that make the celebration of the harvest possible.
We of COURSE welcome the throngs of pumpkin-pickers in Oxtober and are thankful that any occasion exists that gets so many people from all walks of life so excited about visiting a farm. But this rainy, muddy, full-of-birdsong season is REALLY where all of our food comes from, and kids deserve a chance to know that.
Want to visit the farm before the pumpkins come on? We hope so! We have many opportunities to share the bounty of Oxbow with you and yours this season.
This story appeared on our newsletter May 18th, 2015. Sign up to receive our newsletters