Elm Lea Farm is really a private, co-ed, boarding High School in Putney, Vermont. It was founded in 1935, and its original founder believed that work should be part of an adolescent's education. That is still the case 77 years later, and every student in the school helps out. Each student has to rotate through various programs where they work with the herds, help with the crops, and learn about farming and husbandry. They also clean the dorms, serve food in the dining hall, and do all manner of chores necessary to keep the school going.
Pete Stickney grew up on a local farm and has been the farm manager and history teacher at the school for 17 years. "This is a terrific program. The kids take their responsibilities seriously and learn a great deal through hands-on training," says Pete. "Almost 100% go on to higher education. It's hard to beat a record like that."
The students milk 35 cows at Putney and send what they don’t use themselves on to Agri-Mark. The school pasteurizes 200 gallons of milk every other Friday and uses it in their own dining hall. In fact, the students do almost everything in the barn on their own. “The kids do all the milking, clean the barn, feed the animals, bring them out to pasture, and do all the work,” says Pete. “Staff members like Kate, Robert, Cara, and me simply guide them at the outset and help troubleshoot any issues that might come up. The kids know what to do and when to do it, and they take their work to heart.” The cows, of course, don’t take weekends off, so this is a week-long chore for the students. And when it comes to the barn, the program works so well that Putney has received awards from Agri-Mark some ten of the last fifteen years. This means that the milk quality is superb and ranks in the top 10% in terms of bacteria count, somatic cell count, and fat content.
While all the students at Putney have to complete a rotation through the barn, they also work in the gardens. The school has a three-acre garden and two greenhouses, and they consume everything they grow either in the dining hall or for consumption by the animals. They have fresh greens year found. In addition to the cattle, Putney has 15 saddle horses, which the students also tend throughout the year.
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