High Five for King Street

Last month, King Street Center recognized Shelburne Farms with one of its first annual “High Five Awards.” It was an honor we shared with several other recipients, including generous donors, students, volunteers, and King Street staff.

At the awards night (a love fest, really), sisters and King Street youth Rukiya and Hawa wrote and shared what made Shelburne Farms special to them. (They’ve attended both Discovery the Farm and Taste of the Fields summer camps.) As my colleague and their Farm camp counselor, Jed Norris, looked on, Rukiya and Hawa took turns speaking quietly into the microphone:

We are thankful for having the opportunity to go to Shelburne Farms.
We are thankful for the camp and all the fun activities.

We loved:

  • Cooking pesto pasta and fries
  • Doing chores with the animals even though I was afraid and I got over my fear of the cows and horses and chickens
  • I loved when we had lunch and King Street would forget to pack mayonnaise and they had it on the plate for us
  • Usually lakes don’t have lifeguards and this one did, and they took care of us
  • If someone got a zebra mussel in their foot, they would take that person out of the water and tell them there is no worries
  • We loved when we made ice cream and it would feel like a mini work-out
  • Sometimes we saw wild turkeys and we made some jokes about turkeys and it was fun
  • I liked when someone’s grandma came over and talked to us about bees
  • Sometimes when we were changing we would go over to the raspberry bushes and sneak a few raspberries
  • I liked playing hide-and-go seek in the forest with Jed and he would say, “I see you bunny foo-foo”
  • He would always talk about how amazing we were and how many jokes we had
  • He made a joke about eating seaberries and he would say, “Don’t eat too many or you are going to be bursting the toilet”
  • When someone was sad, they would always make up a joke for us to feel better

We love Shelburne Farms!

Hearing their stories was an early holiday gift for me. And their stories aren’t isolated ones. Shelburne Farms and King Street Center have been partnering to support underserved kids for over twenty years. Why? Because kids need farms, and the world needs kids who love the land. We know that building a sustainable future must include everyone in society, so the Farm is committed to being accessible to all – from 3 year old preschoolers, to teens, to adults.

Most King Street kids would never get to the farm. Their families may not have the resources or the transportation, or they may not feel comfortable visiting an unknown place. Heck, they may not know the Farm exists!

But, when the preschoolers visit several times a month during the school year, they begin to see the farm as their farm. (Ask any of them. They’ll tell you!)  Their parents are invited to ride along in King Street’s flashy new green bus and visit with them. Some of those barriers start to break down.

This connection strengthens as they grow and return to attend summer camps and/or school trip programs. Accessibility to the farm gives these kids the chance to experience the land and animals, deepening their connections to both. They meet kids outside of their neighborhood, they become chummy with farmers, and sometimes they simply run and roll around on the wide expanses of green grass – feeling free in wide open spaces. Most importantly for some, they can pick up a chicken! 

It’s through these experiences that kids build an understanding of the big ideas of sustainability – cycles, change over time, interdependence, fairness and equity – because they actually experience these concepts on the farm. And why not have a great time while doing it?

It was an honor to be recognized as a High Five partner, especially given the company we were among, and the fact that the King Street Center itself gives so much to these kids. But truly, we get as much as we give – and more.

During my time with King Street kids, we all learn about other cultures. My compassion swells as I learn stories about the kids, and I laugh with joy as they dig for potatoes as if they were gold, or taste their first roasted marshmallow and make the most disgusted face! I learn tolerance as we walk through the farmyard like we own it, while other guests stare and wonder out loud, “Where did these kids come from?”  I am humbled when the preschoolers yell my name when I jump on that bus to greet them. They don’t know that they are the start to my favorite part of the week.


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