Education Coordinator, Morris Farm
The Red Wheelbarrow
So much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
-William Carlos Williams
Few understand that better than Amy McDougal. As Education Coordinator at Morris farm in Wiscasset, Maine, it's Amy's mission to share with local children her love and concern about humans' relationship to the natural world and the food we eat.
Morris Farm, a non-profit environmental education center and organic farm established in 1994, "is an example of some amazing community organizing," says Amy. "When the previous farmer and owner, Forrest Morris, died, his children weren't interested in farming and developers had their eye on the property to subdivide. Because this is the last working farm so close to downtown Wiscasset, and it's next door to the Wiscasset Primary School, a group of local residents joined together, formed a trust, and raised the money to buy the farm!" Amy arrived at the farm in January 1999 as an Americorps volunteer through the Teach Maine at Wolfe's Neck Farm program. After her term of service was up, the farm secured a grant to hire her as the full-time Education Coordinator.
At Bowdoin, Amy studied Environmental Studies and Women's Studies, disciplines that led her around the world in 1996-1997 in search of a greater understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment. During her junior year, Amy traveled and studied in a program called The International Honors Program: Global Ecology, an 8-month journey that took her to England,
Turkey, India, Thailand, and Mexico. She returned to the States with a deep interest in agriculture; more specifically, how food is produced by and for a culture. "In my travels I was struck by how food production-farming-was embedded into everyday life: chickens being raised on city rooftops, a goat in the back yard, kitchen gardens, flocks of sheep roaming every hill; and by how exposed to and involved in this process the children were, especially in comparison with children in the U.S." Amy resolved to teach children in the United States about where their food comes from and the importance of small local farms in producing healthy food. "Small local farms will only survive in the future if the people of the future care to buy their food from them," explains Amy.
"And children love to learn about where their food comes from and they love the feeling of growing and preparing it themselves!" she smiles. At Morris farm, Amy teaches a summer and a winter day camp for children ages 6-12, in which they do farm chores, garden work, cook, and learn other skills and crafts. "The farm has a special relationship with the local schools," Amy explains, "because they are all within walking distance, and I do several projects with the local school system." Currently, Amy is developing a program with the primary school next door to compost all of their cafeteria waste at Morris Farm. The young students will learn about waste issues and reduction "while doing something to make positive change," she says. "They'll use the finished compost-made from their lunch left-overs-in their school gardens or in the children's garden at the farm."
It's obvious that Amy loves working with the children at Morris Farm, witnessing how "they come alive around the plants, soil, earthworms, and farm animals." By experiencing life on the farm through the eyes of the children she teaches, Amy explains that she is "constantly reminded how amazing it is that a chicken lays a perfect egg every day, that a tomato flower grows into a delicious
fruit, that a horse's even pace and a farmer's skilled hand can plow a field, and that it is cause to squeal with delight when you first milk a cow and feel how warm that steady stream of milk is."
Learn more about Morris Farm at www.morrisfarm.org.