Students at The Putney School drink some of the freshest milk around. They also play a major role in producing it through their work with the school’s 35-cow dairy herd. And milk is far from the only benefit the high schoolers get from the on-school farm, which includes several acres of vegetables, pigs, turkeys and laying hens. Beyond the dining hall, the farm also plays a critical role in the experiential learning approach at this progressive, independent high school.
“The founder wanted the students to experience work,” explains farm manager and history teacher, Pete Stickney. “Every student has a job every day, from doing dishes, to farm chores, to cooking. They get an appreciation of where food comes from and an appreciation of the labor it takes to sustain a community.”
Like all the students, 17-year-old Delilah Cravens worked to earn a leadership role overseeing the morning crew. What she’s learned in the barn goes far beyond the tangible, she reflects. “It really does fill in the holes, things students might not get out of the classroom, like confidence and autonomy,” she says. On the farm, she continues, “As you prove yourself, you get more responsibility. Students feel respected and valued here in a different way.”