Returning from the winter break and traveling immediately to the Manhattan Country School Farm would appear to be a recipe for readjustment and confusion. Spending two weeks away from school—sleeping late, watching movies, traveling—requires students to reboot when they return. The schedules and routines tied to the Farm program require this to happen immediately. Jobs and tasks in classes at the Farm are tied directly to the life and health of our farm animals and our human community.
The Farm job chart consists of both barn and house responsibilities. Students rotate through the tasks on the chart, performing many jobs during the week. Every student will have barn chores at 7 a.m. at some point during the week. After feeding their cow, cleaning the stall, providing fresh bedding and water, and milking the cow, they return to the house for breakfast.
Following a morning meal of pancakes, sausage, fruit and juice, tables are cleared and food scraps are scraped in the pig or compost pail. This act is tied to a larger system of feeding animals and the soil. Another set of jobs is completed after breakfast. Kids who had barn chores earlier might find themselves sweeping the upstairs halls and stairs or hauling firewood to the rec room.
The routine of signing up for farm classes requires kids to listen to the description of each class that is offered. They then have the opportunity to select the class of their choosing. Due to the limits of class size, a numbers game is played to fairly fill the classes. If a person doesn’t get one's first choice, he or she tries for a second choice.
During cooking class, students not only learn about food science and systems, they are required to prepare a balanced, farm-raised meal and snack for 30 people. Farming class in the winter tasks students with moving several dozen hay bales from our main barn to the winter steer barn. This group effort is required to provide dietary fuel to our animals during the cold temperatures.
The MCS Farm schedule, routines and systems are naturally linked. When firewood isn’t stored, people get cold. When meals aren’t prepared, people go hungry. When livestock aren’t cared for, they become hungry, thirsty and unhealthy. Each member of the Farm community plays a vital role in providing a safe and healthy living environment for all.