Nuns farm, educate students

Shirley Yang

Curious and cautious kids just weeks old step outside the wooden barn for the first time. Some of the goats linger towards the open door while others boldly step out of their nursery and into the sunlight, playfully jumping around in a pen at Sprout Creek Farm, a working farm, educational center, retail market and summer camp located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Years before Sprout Creek was donated to the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1982, sisters teaching at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Conn., had already begun raising a few animals with their students.

“It began with a purely educational idea to fill in blanks of education, so young people would learn the connections between real and the conceptual,” Sister Margot Morris, RSCJ, who co-founded and is the director of Sprout Creek Farm, said.

The farm makes and sells cheese to support its educational programs, milking its own animals raised on organic feed and grass. Spring is especially busy at the farm as the 30 plus cows calve every few weeks and approximately 75 does give birth to typically two kids at a time.

While the farm keeps some female calves and kids for future milk producers, most of the offspring are sold or butchered for meat.

“We want to stress the importance of knowing where your food comes from,” said Morris. “Our job is not to sugarcoat the process. We tell the students exactly how their food is made.”

Sprout Creek Farm sells its cheeses to a variety of stores and cheese shops locally and in Manhattan, as well as to the Culinary Institute of America in nearby Hyde Park. A farm market is attached to the cow barn and creamery allowing shoppers watch cheese production and sample farm-made cheeses.

Sprout Creek Farm runs year-round day programs, day and overnight summer camps and programs for adults, teens and children six and older “to love our fragile earth, to understand our connectedness to it, and thus to develop a passion for protecting its integrity,” according to its website.

Seniors Emily Bloch, Kristen Kennedy and Nicola Forbes attended a Network summer program at the farm just before their sophomore year.

“We woke up every morning at 6 a.m., did our morning chores of feeding and milking the animals, going to the garden to pick weeds or berries to eat or went to the local soup kitchen,” Bloch said. “All three of our meals would consist of fresh food from the farm. I didn’t shower once the entire week, but I loved it.”

The farm hosts around 2,500 young people during each school year, and staff says the calendar is reserved a full year in advance.

“We welcome all students to come to the farm and learn the value of farming,” Morris said.

Photos: REBECCA SIEGEL | The Broadview