Like many areas of the country, suburban Nashua, New Hampshire has seen its agricultural land steadily replaced by housing subdivisions thanks to its location about 45 miles northwest of Boston. Along with the loss of farms comes decreased understanding of what it takes to grow, raise and craft food. Alvirne High School is working to fill that gap with programs including a small dairy herd that has offered hands-on experience to students since the early 1950s. “It’s important to show that agriculture is still vibrant,” explains Suzanne Roark, Alvirne’s farm-community liaison. “My mission is to get everybody to like and appreciate agriculture.”
Alvirne’s Wilbur H. Palmer Vocational-Technical Center offers a robust set of career preparatory programs to more than 1,400 students, including forest and wildlife management, veterinary science and culinary arts and horticulture—all of which benefit from the farm, forest and on-site community garden plots. The Alvirne farm has hosted an Open Farm day and has started an after-school calf club, which has drawn about 10 students interested in working with the young animals and they sometimes also help with chores and morning milking.
Working closely with teachers like culinary program instructor, Dave Bressler, is key to raising the dairy program’s profile. Investment in a small-scale pasteurizer and stainless milk jugs enabled culinary students to see for themselves the farm’s own milk transformed into mozzarella cheese. “I feel that we are just scratching the surface with the potential the farm brings to our students,” Dave explains. “Most people may not know or take a bit for granted where their food comes from and how that it is made. We have a real chance to educate our students.”