LAKE PLACID - North Country School is expanding its farm-to-fork program by adopting last year's seventh-grade pilot program - the Edible Schoolyard - for all its grades.
Founded in 1938, North Country School is located on state Route 86 about 10 miles east of Lake Placid and offers an educational program for boarding and day students in grades 4-9. Educators take full advantage of the rural landscape of the property.
"We've always had a working farm here, but it's always been about the work and informal teaching on the farm," said Head of School David Hochschartner. "Now we have arranged so that every student also gets an associated experiential academic class on nutrition, farming, plants, physiology and cooking as well."
North Country School
(News photo — Andy Flynn)
North Country School is a founding member of the Edible Schoolyard educational network, founded in Berkeley, California, in the 1990s by restaurateur and food activist Alice Waters. It was a natural step for the school; administrators have long believed that the farm was an important part of their students' education.
"We always felt it was a place where students learned important values like the value of hard work, the value of coming together as a community to do big projects like maple sugaring or harvesting your flock of chickens or harvesting the turkeys for the Thanksgiving celebration or harvesting potatoes," he said. "Over the years we've realized, the dream has always been, there are all kinds of educational concepts that are involved in the process of farming or cooking or planning a month of nutritional meals."
Hochschartner said it's nice to have those lessons captured in a classroom setting as well as outside on the farm.
Students will now learn about state-of-the-art farming with the school's new aquaponics setup - growing lettuce and herbs year-round. And the school just received a grant to purchase aeroponic grow towers - vertical gardening that is designed mainly for urban areas.
"We want to be able to show our students how some of the agricultural concepts that we do on our 4-acre organic garden on our 200-acre campus can be done even in the middle of incredibly densely populated cities," Hochschartner said.
On the financial side, North Country School recently wrapped up its first phase of a capital campaign, and a second phase is being launched to raise money for scholarships and the renovation and greening of the campus.
"In the past couple of years, we have been able to install biomass boilers so that our school and camp use virtually no heating oil," Hochschartner said. "By the end of the year, the last of our fossil fuel heating plants will be a thing of the past as we have another grant to install biomass heating plants."
Enrollment this year is up slightly to 90 compared to previous years: 2013-14 - 85; 2012-13 - 87; 2011-12 - 85; 2010-11 - 88; and 2009-10 - 94.
North Country School staff orientation began on Tuesday, Sept. 2, and students arrive Friday, Sept. 12.
For more information, visit online at northcountryschool.org.