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Farm Reflections

By John McDaniel, Farm Director
“The Farm is like a stitch in time. We board a school bus, drive for hours and then everything slackens. It’s like a different dimension, like losing my glasses and finding a new pair that illuminates the world more clearly.”  --- Kai - MCS Class of 2012

I have had the privilege to be at the Manhattan Country School Farm for more than three decades. I have witnessed and collected countless statements and questions from kids over the years, but this quote is one I cherish. For me, Kai’s quote is such a beautiful metaphor and typifies the MCS Farm experience. 

For the past year, since March of 2020, we have had no children at the Farm. I recognize how fortunate I have been to live and work in this space during a global pandemic. The Farm staff and I have come to work daily; building, creating, maintaining, caring for our animals and connecting with our students remotely. And even though I have been working daily with an amazing and inspiring group of people, our Farm was just a shell of its former self. As with Kai's sentiment in her quote, I had lost my glasses and the world was distorted. I knew the landscape and architecture intimately, but it continued to remain out of focus. For several months during this year, I had expectations of children rolling down Thyme Hill, swinging on the tree swing, and walking to the barn for chores. These expectations turned to anticipation and then transformed into what seemed like a mirage from my memory. The seasons flowed in and out of each other and before I knew it, a year had passed. 

But, hold on! Beginning in April my own personal optometrists arrived in the form of children! They stepped from the bus, piled out of family cars and filled the MCS Farm with the life and energy it has been lacking. They moved through the space, a little tentative at first and then with a joy and exuberance only children can display. My early morning arrivals were met with “Good Mornings” from real and in-person young people doing the things they are meant to do. The frog pond was surrounded by open hands trying their luck at capturing aquatic creatures. Pots and pans clinked together in the kitchen as large meals were prepared. Chickens were cradled in the arms of children. And yes, bodies rolled down Thyme Hill with dizzying laughter. At the end of each spring Farm trip, I am convinced I saw groups of children running to me shouting, “John!, John! We found your glasses!”
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