WorldLegacy’s NC88 Leadership Team planted 150 blueberry bushes and other plants at this 199 year old family farm. This farm is a versatile teaching environment for children with a program built around life on a working farm.
WorldLegacy and Family Farms
Planters’ fruits of labor not all edible
CHAPEL HILL — WorldLegacy graduate Spence Dickinson started his farm out of concern that family-run farms — and with them places for children to feel needed, work hard and learn about nature — were dying. “We have a world and a country that doesn’t really value children’s time as a contribution to the needs of the community,” said Dickinson, owner of Spence’s Farm. On Saturday, Dickinson and a group of volunteers did their best to offset those concerns.
More than 50 people gathered to celebrate the recent planting of about 150 blueberry bushes and a few rows of blackberry shrubs at the farm.
The berries aren’t just meant to be eaten, though many at the open house said they looked forward to tasting the literal fruits of their labor. Instead, they are intended to show area residents, and especially children, where their food comes from and to encourage them to work on similar projects.
A group of about 20 adults from the WorldLegacy, a Morrisville-based company that offers leadership and personal-development courses, organized the planting.
A center goal is for students to take lessons they have learned and help the community, co-founder Rob Katz said. One way groups do this is by organizing service projects, which have included beautification at a Ronald McDonald House and a prison.
Katz called the berry project a perfect fit with the center’s mission. “It’s going to grow both figuratively and literally,” he said.
The WorldLegacy group, whose members came from the region and even other states, also set up educational signs about farming and the ecosystem near the berry patches.
Its members want to partner with teachers, so children can learn about farming — and help with the process — through the display.
The group, along with friends and family members, planted the berries on Dec. 23, a day when many people were finishing their holiday shopping.
“It was about creating instead of consuming,” said Melissa Malkin-Weber, a student in the WorldLegacy class who, along with other volunteers, wore blue shirts to the celebration.
Malkin-Weber, of Durham, said another goal for the project was to foster community. That goal was, in a way, accomplished on Saturday.
Volunteers and local families listened to a bluegrass band play, watched jugglers toss bats into the sky and ate blueberry crisp.
The bushes will live for about 60 years, so two or three generations will be able to enjoy their fruit. The first harvest will be this summer, Dickinson said.
Dickinson lamented the fact that many family farms were closing because people didn’t want to do the work. He intends to ensure the longevity of Spence’s Farm through a foundation or other leadership, and said someone who may want to help manage the farm approached him Saturday after learning about the celebration.
Dickinson’s farm also hosts farm-themed camps and after-school programs for children. A troublemaker as a child, Dickinson said his farm was a way to empower kids to feel good about themselves.
“On a farm, there’s something for everybody,” Dickinson said. “Everybody can have a contribution.”
Claire Carson, 14, was one of many children who helped plant the berries. Carson, whose mother did the WorldLegacy course, said she had done little farming, outside of home gardening, before helping with the project.
She said she was looking forward to returning to Spence’s Farm when the berries were ready for harvest.
“It will be nice to come back and say ‘I helped create this,’ ” Carson said.
Reprinted permission Herald-Sun
Berries aren’t just for eating
Farm helps teach kids responsibility
BY MEILING AROUNNARATH, Staff Writer
January 6, 2007
CHAPEL HILL – Blueberry bushes at Spence’s Farm are so much more than just blueberry bushes. They’re learning tools for children who visit the farm off N.C. 86 for the after-school program, summer camp or field trips.
Like many activities on Spence’s Farm — feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs, sweeping the wood shop — the blueberry bushes will help children learn how everyone in a community plays a role in the fruitfulness and harvesting of the blueberries.
More than 150 blueberry and blackberry bushes will be revealed today at 1 p.m. during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the farm.
The WorldLegacy, a personal and leadership development company in Morrisville, put together a team about a month ago to design and lead a project that would involve a community.
“They wanted to create a learning area for everyone, so children can come and learn and reconnect with the land, with nature, with farming,” said Rob Katz, director of the center.
“It’s not just to have blueberries grow, to pick them and then make blueberry pies,” he said. “It’s really about creating a place where everyone is involved in growing the blueberries and taking care of them and harvesting them.”
The blueberry bushes are a model for Spence Dickinson’s entire farm. The children who step onto the property learn at a young age that their chores on the farm are just as important as the adults’ jobs, he said.
“Kids [today] aren’t being asked to be responsible for their community,” Dickinson, 58, explained. “Before, it was more of a community, a team effort, to milk cows. Children were involved with milking cows.
“So where do kids learn that they have a contribution? Where they can have a relationship with animals?” he asked. “They’re being taught that they’re not responsible for anything until they’re 21.”
Dickinson has owned the 202-year-old farm for about 22 years and is now looking to pass it on. His two children, 28 and 30 years old, don’t want to run the farm.
He’d like to pass it to a nonprofit organization, a foundation or a cooperative, he said, and he has asked for help from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
“Farms are in danger of disappearing. Nobody can afford to buy a farm today, and nobody can afford to start up a farm today,” he said. “Replacement costs are so high that no one person can afford it. That’s why they all go to corporate farms. That’s why we’re losing farms.
“The main takers were the children who would inherit the farm,” Dickinson said, “but they don’t want to do it today.”
Reprinted with Permission of The News & Observer of Raleigh, NC.