What am I, a farmer?

Mathias Maurer

No, there are of course alternative career paths; after all, there is nothing to say that Waldorf pupils cannot also become suits in business. Working with and on the soil means learning as a person to deal in a meaningful and sustainable way with the life of plants and animals, with the micro- and macrocosm.

If schools work together with farms not just on a temporary basis but in firm collaboration, this not only ensures a natural educational – indeed possibly even therapeutic – balance  to sitting in a classroom but also helps farmers threatened with extinction by industrial farming enterprises to develop a new string to their bow as school farms. That brings a dual benefit which can heal both humans and the earth.

Such school farms or farm schools come quite close to the ideal that school should be a place in which every action has meaning which can also be directly understood as such by young people. Farmers become educators and educators farmers, teachers teach on the farm and farmers in the classroom. We cannot avoid learning arithmetic and writing when the seed for sowing has to be calculated, the furrows set out, carrots, apples and beetroot harvested, weighed and sold, when cheese is made, cows have to be milked, the takings in the farm shop have to be correct or, indeed, the land has to be surveyed.

Then the material to be learnt is not a compulsory programme which the pupils cannot (yet) relate to real life but a “natural” side effect which arises from the matter itself. That fruit has to be picked and perhaps bottled so that it can be preserved and at a later time contribute to a delicious breakfast, that bread is made of the corn which grows in the fields and that it has to be removed from the oven at the right time to prevent it burning: the one thing follows on from the other and humans cultivate not just their natural environment through these activities but also themselves.

School farms could offer more than a safety net for truants or destination for school trips if schools supported them. There should not, in fact, be any school without an associated farm – something which is quite possible with a little bit of imagination, even in a city.

Lisa, having insisted as the farm work placement was approaching that she hated snails, was terrified of mice, could not bear the stink of manure and most certainly would not touch slimy cheese and, furthermore, had no intention whatsoever of becoming a farmer, so what was the point!? – came back a changed person after three weeks. She seemed more self-possessed and balanced, indeed healthy. The first words she said when she arrived home were: “I would have liked to stay longer.”