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Mountain Song Community School's farm open to neighbors... just remember the rules

A view from the building roof this spring shows the Mountain Song Community School farm. Since this photo was taken, an adobe playhouse - built by the third graders - has been added. The red building with white trim is the goat house.
Kirsten Young photo - used with permission
       In the summer of 2013, Mountain Song Community School began preparations for its first year as a Waldorf-philosophy charter school in the old Whittier, 2904 W. Kiowa St.
       One of the most visible changes was the start of a garden/farm on about an acre at the property's northwest corner that had formerly been used for a playground (part of it still is) or for an overflow parking area.
       Now in its second year, the agricultural complex has become even more prominent, including a henhouse, bunny hutch, goat corral, hoop-house

Jeremy Tackett, the agricultural instructor for Mountain Song Community School, visits with the goats inside their corral .
Westside Pioneer photo
garden, compost pile, haybale flowers and herbal plantings.
       Jeremy Tackett, the school's agricultural instructor, realizes it's natural for people to be curious and he welcomes them to drop by. There are no locks on the gates, and he even offers occasional community workshops. “We'd like to keep it open,” he said. “We want people to feel it's their farm too, not Mr. Tackett's project.”
       However, there have been a few incidents of late - the worst of which was a stolen baby bunny (which was later returned) - and he thinks it's time that rules for behavior were better known.
       The main concern is people not knowing how to relate to the animals. Chickens and turkeys don't take well to aggressive behavior, bunnies require gentleness and it's not true that goats will eat anything. Also, even though the farm is growing a number of healthy herbs, feeding an animal too much of them is not a good idea. Rhubarb, for example, could prove deadly, Tackett said.
       He plans to post a sign at access points to the farm. The following is a slightly edited list of his “farm etiquette guidelines”:
       - Pets on leashes are welcome, but don't let them go on any plants, or bark excessively at animals.
       - Organic foods/scraps can be fed to the animals in moderation and consideration.
       - No citrus, dairy, or meat to the chickens.
       - Leafy greens, a little apple and a little carrot are all fine for the adult rabbits.
       - Goats will only eat fruit and vegetable scraps that are smaller than an egg, so please break them up.
       - No meat or dairy to the goats, and also they won't eat off the ground.
       - Weeds, lawn clippings, and most tree branches are fine for the animals as long as they haven't been treated with any sort of "cides" [basically meaning chemical sprays or fertilizers].
       - If there as any doubt, please just leave your contribution in a bucket near the compost.
       Overall, Tackett describes the farm as a “small, urban, hobby, organic farm,” specifically following the principles of “biodynamic agriculture” (which was developed by scientist, educator and Waldorf co-founder Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s). Farm studies are part of the curriculum for students in all grades at Mountain Song. A recent addition was an adobe playhouse, which last year's third grade built for the first- graders, Tackett said.
       There are no plans for the school to sell produce. The current goal is to provide 80 percent of the food its animals need, he noted.
       Asked about the difference between biodynamic agriculture and traditional organic growing strategies, Tackett replied in an e-mail:
       “In biodynamic farming we try to find the balance between the qualitative and the quantitative. We have an all-encompassing view of nature, embracing physical and non-physical cosmic aspects. We not only farm by the moon, but also take into consideration the positions of our 12 fixed constellations (zodiac). Special preparations are used to bring the mineral, plant, animal and human environments into a place of balance and understanding, while utilizing all of their potential to strengthen the farm as an individual, or its essence, or to approach the entire farm as a single organism.”

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/29/14; Schools: Other than District 11)

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