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NMH Secures $1 Million to Integrate Academics with the NMH Farm

Jan. 20, 2022 — Starting next year, Northfield Mount Hermon students will be able to spend a term taking their academic classes in English, Humanities, and science on the NMH Farm in a new program funded through an anonymous $1 million gift that integrates multidisciplinary instruction and hands-on exploration within the setting of the NMH farm.

Head of School Brian Hargrove announced that NMH received the $1 million gift to bring more students onto the farm, broaden students’ academic experience using the farm as a resource, and provide another opportunity for experiential learning to NMH students. 

Hargrove said, “This supports our effort to invest new resources in the farm and represents an early and galvanizing gift in our strategic priorities.” The donor was motivated to support NMH’s academic excellence and commitment to environmental education as it is connected to farming, agriculture, and land management. Hargrove  added, “Thanks to this young alum, we will strengthen experiential learning as we better connect students to our place in the Connecticut River Valley.” 

Bea Garcia, Assistant Head of School for Academic Programs and Dean of Faculty, said, “We are excited to have the opportunity to keep developing a curriculum that takes a holistic approach. This program will allow students and teachers to continue to learn together and to engage in a multidisciplinary study of the place and the farm.” 

Farm Program Director Jake Morrow said, “Historically, students have come to the farm through the workjob program. The goal with this program is to offer students an opportunity to combine intellectual work with physical work on the farm.” 

The program will launch next year. Each term, a cohort of juniors and seniors will attend classes on the NMH farm, and new classroom space will be created on the farm. These students will perform their workjob on the farm during the term in which they are participating in the program, which will support additional goals to expand and reinvigorate the farm workjob program and help increase the farm’s production of food for the NMH dining hall and school community. Faculty for the program will include a science teacher and a humanities teacher, along with Morrow in his role as the farm program director. 

Currently, one class, the Science of Farming, meets frequently on the farm, and teachers also bring students in their academic classes to the farm on an ad hoc basis. For example, students in an American Literature class visit the farm while reading My Antonia by Willa Cather. As they learn about the challenges of agricultural life depicted in the book, Morrow shows students how to use an old-fashioned single-bottom walking plow hitched to the farm’s two draft horses, and then students get the chance to actually plow the field.

The new program will give more students the opportunity to spend time on the farm engaging in a wider range of activities. Students will be able to go beyond what is currently offered during their farm workjob, and will connect the academic program with the farm in a more deliberate way.

“It’s an opportunity for students to get to know the landscape, where we live and learn,” he said. “There’s a reason to know the land and landscape because every landscape is threatened. This will be a chance to see that we exist because of our dependence on the land.”

The farm has been a part of school life since 1879.  The farm has a student-built greenhouse, a sugar house, and a cider house. On the farm, the school grows greens, vegetables, and herbs, and produces apple cider, jams, maple products, and honey. Currently, roughly 30 students — mostly 9th and 10th graders — spend about four hours per week each term at the farm as part of their workjob requirement.