By Lindsay Kreisher
Director, Roots & Wings Learning Community
I remember being outdoors as a child. I remember the freedom, the smells, the simple thrill of seeing wild animals going about their day. Outside was the best part of any day. My Dad has always been an "outdoor kinda guy", but not in the sense of hiking or camping. When I was a child, he could always be found outside watering the plants, taking a roam around our yard. Still today, he enjoys this time out there, observing. I hold dear memories of him coming inside to invite me outside to join him in observing a deer, an owl, or even scoping out an eagle in the higher up trees. Binoculars were always handy in my house, as was the excitement of what could be seen on the other side of them. We had wild raspberries growing along the trees in our front yard, and I remember my Dad bringing them inside in handfuls to me to munch on! Sometimes he'd take me to the beach side where brambles of them grew in plenty. The best part was that we'd nibble on them as we picked - it was pure, in the moment, joy of being outdoors.
The school district I grew up in had access to endless resources and banded together to create a learning environment that taught the whole child. In doing so, our middle school erected a full working mini-farm, greenhouse and garden space on the property. The farm boasted chickens, rabbits, ducks/geese, goats, sheep and a wild boar (he was housed in the way back where you couldn't go unless a teacher took you there). The set up at Albert G. Prodell Middle School was one that was not found in most public schools. It was incredible. While the garden (complete with a compost heap), greenhouse and animals served as science enrichment at the middle school, the elementary "Farm Program" born from it, was one children looked forward to all year. During the summer, children K-5 could sign up for the Farm Program, which was a week long program designed to teach children about the farm, animal stewardship, responsibility, compassion, science, old world skills etc. As a result, hundreds of children fell in love with animals and nature. I was one of them.
Fast forward many years later as I welcomed my daughter into the world. When she was old enough to head off to kindergarten, I hesitated. Having a background in education and child development, I knew that being in a classroom all day would not be ideal for her. Her natural curiosity, love of the outdoors, and strong will were valuable pieces of her personality that I wanted to support. I met Chiara in 2018, after having homeschooled my kiddo for three years. I had been searching for a program that was anywhere close to what I had growing up. It turns out that it didn't exist yet where we stood, but there came a wonderful opportunity to build it together. In the first year of CEI's Roots and Wings Learning Community program, Chiara shared her vision of purchasing what is now known as Freetown Farm. The experience of having worked alongside her in building an educational program that I was proud to offer to my daughter has been a gift. In less than two years, the farm has become a wonderful place of common ground for connection, freedom, and purpose. It highlights the world in its natural form, and highlights mindful cultivation and creativity. It has served as an educational hub for children, teens and adults alike. I've been honored to witness children falling in love with nature at the farm and it is evident that the memories they are creating will stay with them forever. For me, it is nothing short of magical when you step foot on the Freetown Farm property - the land speaks. Bringing people of many walks of life together, in goodness and love, for the earth.