Midland School Introduces Farm Graduation Requirement

Midland Introduces Farm & Garden Graduation Component

Learn about the integral role the farm plays in our experiential educational program

Carrots being harvested at Midland School's organic farm and garden

Carrots being harvested at Midland School’s organic farm and garden

Michael Sibalski, Farm Manager & Educator
Dan Susman, Dean of Experiential Learning & Science Faculty

The Midland food system is an amazing thing. We have grass-fed beef from the ranch where Regina and our students care for and manage our cattle, pork that makes use of our food waste and is butchered locally, and of course our farm, where together with our students we grow over 65 varieties of produce. This includes both annual vegetables and perennial fruits. The culmination of all of our combined efforts is in Stillman dining hall where Gloria, Lupita and Jose turn all of the raw ingredients into  the meals we eat daily.

The farm is a place where our students are engaging with many of the core competencies that we aim to instill in them: connection to place and environment, problem solving, and being of use particularly. They have the opportunity to directly interact with our community’s food, and also with the interplay between human and environment. 

Midland School pergola at the farm. Students enjoy fresh produce.

Midland School pergola at the farm. Students enjoy fresh produce.

This is an understanding that we want our students to  leave the farm with: that we have a direct role and responsibility in the wellbeing of our surroundings.  On the farm students are doing the work. They see the direct impact of their actions when seeding trays for the greenhouse, when they transplant into the field, when they prune a tree. This direct feedback is a powerful teacher.

One of the main pieces of feedback I heard from students was that they want to know more of the “why” behind the choices made on the farm. Completing tasks is important out here; we will always have to do the “work.” I also see a huge opportunity to deepen the education that is happening on the farm. This year’s internship students will be researching an area of interest to them that is within the domain of agriculture; plant physiology, soil science, environmental and social justice issues, ecology and more. 

Students are also stepping into more leadership roles, whether in the jobs program or in internship and farm sport. We aim to have a crew of 4 students out on the farm this year in the jobs program, and  interns will be given leader of the day responsibilities which will include creating and sharing mini-lessons with their peers and leading us in planting, harvesting, pruning and other activities. 

Fresh produce from the Midland School farm and gardens.

Fresh produce from the Midland School farm and gardens.

Every one of us at Midland benefits from the farm; its beauty, its bounty, and its gift of meaningful work that we can do shoulder to shoulder, side by side. This soil, these vegetables that we’ve worked so tirelessly to tend, they are part of us. 

For those of us who’ve been here for years, this soil is literally in our teeth and in our bones. Like, actually, not metaphorically. And for our students, it is just the same. Let’s get concrete:  if a student ate a modest amount of lettuce four days a week – say a cup, which is smaller than the average side salad – after four years here they would have consumed over a 100 lbs of lettuce. It is in their bones.

In this vein, and in consultation with various members of the community, we want to honor the work we’re doing out here by showing our students this work and that the food we put in our body matters. Starting for the class of 2025, participation in the Farm, either as a sport or internship, will be a graduation requirement. We realize there may be challenges, and hiccups, and for some students, this will be a surprise – but we are confident as we continue there’s plenty of time, there’s plenty of work, and plenty of lessons to sink into our and our students’ hearts and bones. 

To read more about how one current student has been affected by her farm experience, check out this interview with Mattox Moran class of ‘24. 

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