After years of working in and looking at government school/education
programs, I found nothing but a "killing field" for the human spirit.
I would estimate that over 90% of home/unschoolers return to school by age
l8. Here, on The Farm, by sharing ideas and action we should be able to help
turn around this extremely high "drop in rate".
My four unschooling kids (now grown) never found another unschooler within
100 miles that they might have befriended
John Holt helped many of us see out from beneath the school yoke. I can
think of no more worthy cause than to continue his search for better ways to introduce kids to the
What lead me to my beliefs...
l949 - Winona Senior High, Winona, MN graduated.
l956 - Wisconsin Audubon Camp--Sarona, WI -- 2-week scholarship
l959 - Winona State College on G.I. Bill--B.S. Majors: Biology, Music and
l96l - Eastern Michigan University--6-week summer National Science Foundation Institute for science teachers--paid to attend--included a 3-week, 2600 mile tour and study of natural resources of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
l96l - Michigan State University Biological Station--scholarship 2 week
Outdoor Ed. Workshop.
l962- Michigan State University--M.A. Major: Secondary Ed. Minor:
l964-65 Michigan State University--given l year free tuition and an assistantship--Ed. Spec. Degree--all but a dissertation for a doctorate.
l959-6l - Rushford, MN, 6th grade teacher--took my class and the other 6th grade on an overnight, school camping trip--took 9 boys, 2 girls, 2 dads and my wife 350 miles to Moose Lake on the Canadian border for a 6 day Boundary Waters Canoe trip.
l962-63 - Branchville, N.J.--Assistant Prof. of Outdoor Education for the 6 NJ State Colleges -- one of four staff working with the l00 to 200 college juniors who spent each Monday through Friday living at the NJ State School of Conservation, in a 28,000 acre state park/forest. 3200 college and l000 public school students spent l week at the camp that year.
l963 - Whitewater State Park, MN --one of three Winona State College staff conducting a 7 day Conservation Ed. Workshop for 70 teachers.
l963-64 - Burlington, N.J.--asked by a public school to work with l0 physically handicapped high school kids--took them, their crutches and wheel chairs on 3 overnight camping trips.
l964 - Ely, MN--instructor Minnesota Outward Bound School for 3 months leading
wilderness canoe trips.
l965 - Astoria, OR--Tongue Pt. Job Corps Center--while thumbing through Oregon visited this center and was hired for outdoor activities--climbed Mt. St. Helen's and Mt. Hood with trainees -- was offered a 1 year contract, but was just looking, so moved on.
l965 - Marble, CO--Colorado Outward Bound School--instructor for a l month course.
l965 - Michigan State University - Asstship in a Media Center.
l966 - Lansing, MI--Sexton Senior H.S.-- hired for 3 months to try anything with 40 of the worst hell raisers out of the l650 students.
l966-67 - Lewiston, MN-a federally funded public school program working with unmotivated, bright kids who can be picked out by first grade and will be labeled as, and think of themselves as, stupid by 6th grade.
l967-68 - Teaneck, NJ - Fairleigh Dickenson University –supervising student teachers and teaching science courses.
l969 - Plattsburgh, NY--Plattsburgh State University—supervising student teachers.
l969-70 - Plattsburgh, NY--Plattsburgh State University--one of four staff working with 90 college students in a program based on the belief that when a student is told what to do every minute of every day during l2 years of school, plus 4 more in college, they have no idea what they want to do. My job was to try and find out what they thought they wanted to do and then get them out into the world to do it.
l970 -Winona, MN--returned to The Farm, knowing that we could develop an outdoor/farm school program better than anything in the country, if the public schools (who have a monopoly on the kids and funding) could be interested--local Lion's Club worked to promote the idea—people I didn't know set up The Winona Farm, Inc. to help The Farm and the idea survive, the superintendent of schools wouldn't look at The Farm yet over l00 classes and groups visited The Farm, but I couldn't survive on "thank yous”; however, the superintendent's predecessors both asked to visit The Farm when in '86 and '94 it was chosen as the best site for a new middle school and athletic complex--luckily, both referendums failed.
My Mother divorced my alcoholic Dad when I was 6. She was a homemaker who
didn't even own a car. From her I learned the importance of composting, living simply and that it isn't how much one earns but what they do with it. The point is that no one gave me The Farm. I bought The Farm Oct. l, l956, when 24, the second year at Winona State, on the G.I. Bill, with a wife and 2 kids. The Farm cost $l6,000 and I earned most of the $6,000 down, on a contract for deed, before I went in the Marines at l9, '5l to '54, drafted for Korea. At l4 I was an Eagle Scout with 2 Palms. At l5 I spent the summer on Uncle Paul Nagel's farm at Winnebago, MN. At l6 I started in a stone quarry, l0 hours a day and only 9 hours on Saturday, for a total of 2 years. At l6 I started playing trumpet with a union dance band, 2 to 3 nights a week from 9:00 P.M. until I:00 A.M., for l0 years. Starting September lst, when l6, after school, until ground freeze up in November, I trapped 54 fox for the $4 bounty and 7l the next fall, which was l949. During the winter I was leading scorer on the high school hockey team. In the spring I worked each day after school on the farm next to what is now The Winona Farm.
In '54 my wife Barb was in labor, so I took her to a Boston Hospital. They wouldn't let me beyond the receptionist desk. When I returned the next day to see my wife and new daughter, they had given my wife shots to dry her up and put ace bandages around her chest, because they said the baby wouldn't nurse. I took the bandages off, had the nurse bring our daughter and she nursed. We went home the next day. There is no money in breast-feeding, but big money in formula. One year later we intentionally delivered our 9lb. 6 oz. son at home in a South Boston, MA housing project, 6 days after Barb graduated from the Mass. General Nursing School. This is a perfect example of how, in our profit driven society, the fear factor and lack of experience has been used to twist and distort a beautiful, natural process, that has been evolving since the beginning of time and without which we as a species wouldn't exist, but out of which no one could make a profit. Doctors were able to con over 85% of women into bottle-feeding.
I have hauled semi loads of Roundup from Monsanto's plant in Muscatine, IA to warehouses bursting with pesticides and herbicides. For profit, they have twisted and distorted the natural process of raising healthy food to where the results run from disastrous to deadly. No where is this total dependency on high input, more obvious than in greenhouse tomatoes, where 95% are hydroponic or on total I-V life support systems. Our goal and challenge is to demonstrate an organic, sustainable way.
Starting in '70, built a barn and cabin, got married and had 4 more kids, (had 4 kids from the first eleven year marriage) --in '72 I hatched over 6,000 soft shelled turtles in a closet in the house and sold them to pet wholesalers in NJ for $.55 apiece--drove semi part time, from coast to coast to stay afloat--bought 35 new born, cross heifer calves at sales barns and had up to ll0 head until '79, when I concluded that raising beef in this area is "expensive exercise", so switched to milking 40 cows for 7 l/2 years until entering the dairy herd buyout in December of '86--then, after l6 years of marriage the cows, wife and kids left, so I put land in CRP and drove semi over l5,000 miles a month to survive.
I've hitch hiked over l00,000 miles, driven semi over l million miles, had over 40 jobs from coast to coast and am still interested in, concerned about and determined to help lessen the heavy handed impact of humans on themselves and all living things.
In '52 I would visit with an Ohio State ag. student/fellow Marine, who lived next to Louis Bromfield's farm and would argue farming practices with Bromfield when walking home from school. Visited Broomfield's farm shortly after he died in '56. Mentioned Broomfield's writings and Faulkner's "Plowman's Folly" in a soils course at Michigan State in '6l and drew the wrath of the instructor. Spent 2 weekends on Bromfield's farm around '90, when heading for NYC with a semi. It is now a state park/farm and I saw no evidence of practicing or questioning of conventional farm practices that he was noted for. Spent half a day at Wes Jackson's place in Salinas, KS while waiting for my semi to be loaded with Tony's Pizza.
Grew up on Rodale's writings. Subscribed to "New Farm" until it gave up. In '84, while driving semi from Loredo, TX to NYC, with a l0 year old son, spent a beautiful October Sunday at Rodale research farm at Kutztown, PA and visited with Robert Rodale. That year they gave up on guided tours and had only a self guided tour. On that day, although over a million people live within 50 miles of that farm and with all their publications and experiments taking place there, only a retired carpenter from Baltimore and his wife visited. On The Winona Farm I have had 200 to 300 composters visit in one day.
Now at 70, after a few distraction, I survive on social security, composters, 2 tourist cabins and food waste. My goal is that The Winona Farm continues beyond my life time as a community service and model of how a small, diversified, flexible, family farm, existing in harmony with a city, can survive and thrive in the shadow of that city and benefit all living things--starting with the soil.