In my happiest daydreams, I am Wendel the rat terrier.
The pouncing pup spends his days patrolling muddy rows of organic vegetables, sniffing at a velvety baby calves, herding naughty chickens, nipping at his master’s heels and bounding through grassy apple orchards at the Summerfield Waldorf School & Farm. Not a bad way to spend the day.
This idyllic wonderland, punctuated by tree swings and ancient oak trees spreading their shady limbs into impromptu forts, is one of Wine Country’s most sought-after educational programs. Using nature as part of it’s curriculum, children from the kindergarten through high school plant, tend, harvest and eat from the private school’s on-site farm.
More than a hobby garden, the two acre complex is headed by full-time farmer Dana Revallo. Each year it produces thousands of pounds of vegetables and fruits, eggs, milk and dried beans that end up in the school’s own lunch program, sold to school families, or at the nearby Sebastopol Whole Foods.
“We’re feeding ourselves and our community,” said Revallo, who is usually accompanied by the feisty Wendel.
Strolling the grounds, Revallo points to a still-muddy patch of land that last year yielded 3,000 pounds of winter squash, 800 pounds of onions, 400 pounds of garlic, corn, spelt used for flour, potatoes and beans. A tractor tills the soil near eighty espaliered apple trees — limbs grown on trellises like grape vines to increase sunlight and ease picking — are blossoming pink and white in the sunlight, and last year yielded 1,500 hundred pounds of organic fruit. Not perfect fruit, mind you, but pesticide-free fruit. “I’m trying to teach people that fruit doesn’t have to look perfect to taste good,” Revallo said.
It’s a collective experiment that engages the students into learning about where food actually comes from — from seed to table. While Revallo chats, young students dump food scraps into the farm’s compost bin (wrinkling their noses and washing empty buckets after wards), then heading back to class. According to Revallo, the school’s third graders are the school’s most avid farmers, taking responsibility for the main farming block, though all grades are involved in helping to maintain the agricultural oasis.
“Digging carrots out of the ground is magical to these kids,” Revallo said.
Pouncing and pawing at a tiny critter scurrying through the growth, Wendel the terrier seems to agree wholeheartedly.
Summerfield Waldorf School & Farm: 655 Willowside Rd, Santa Rosa, 707-575-7194
Children aged 4-12 can participate in the school’s Summer Farm Camp where they’ll do “chores”, work in the gardens, participate in crafts and help maintain the farm.