Kids Learn Farming the Old Fashioned Way

By Briana Vannozzi

This is real life horse power. Farming the old fashioned way. And these Robbins Elementary School kids from Trenton are learning it from the ground up.

“Here’s a an early tractor, two horse power. And all the kids are using a walking plow and they’re turning a slice of soil where the gardeners will then plant their vegetables,” said Pete Watson, director of the Howell Living History Farm.

The nonprofit group Isles Inc. has helped create more than 75 community gardens throughout Trenton. The crops grown go to local schools, food pantries and shelters in the city. Today they hosted the 25th annual horse plow event to get locals involved in the budding scene.

“We want them to be connected to the land and the environment, so we want them to be stewards of open space and green space but then we want them to know that it can be productive,” said Isles Inc. Deputy Director of Community Planning and Development Jim Simon.

Chester and Jack are Belgian work horses and they weigh over a ton each. Now, today we have tractors and equipment to get the job done, but over a 100 years ago, they would have had to plow an acre a day.

“It’s a hard day’s work for everyone concerned, but we feed the horses well and I trust that the kids will appreciate their lunches all the more,” Watson said.

The garden is set up into four stations — plowing, composting, corn shelling and bee keeping.

Why those four in particular?

“They’re all interrelated, so it’s all about interrelated systems. So your animals are related to soil fertility. Worms and composting your organic materials helps build soil health as well. Pollinators, without bees and other pollinators, we would have very limited food supplies so it’s about how these things all function and complement each other,” Simon said.

“Instead of having that garbage where I have to throw out my banana peel or my apple core or egg shell, I take it and I put it back into this bin and I have all these worms in this bin and worms are really important for our food, because worms are helping to create soil. And not just any soil, but soil with lots of nutrients in it,” said Isles Inc. Community Food Coordinator Christina Heimann.

What did third-grader Guadalupe Vasquez learn so far?

“That worms can compost a banana peel and apples and more stuff,” she said.

And after they got up close with a hive of old honey bees and picked off ears of corn, it was just about time to break for lunch.

What did third-grader Marvine Furcal think about this kind of farming?

“It’s really hard,” she said.

After the students wrap up all four stations, the hope is they’ll take some of these lessons home with them and remember the old adage: no farmers, no food.