Camino de Paz Farm, literally translated means “The Peaceful Path”. Located in the Chimayo Valley in New Mexico, it is home to sheep, goats, draft horses, chickens, turkeys, and some dogs. The farm boasts a small orchard, grows corn, tomatoes, kale, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, grapes, poc choy, chard and countless other garden greens. The four large greenhouses grow some of the largest tomatoes I have ever seen, probably due to the specific biodynamic farming practices. (http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/biodynamic.html)
The dairy goats are milked daily and the milk is weighed, labeled, and jarred. The milk is used to make Chevre, soap and ice cream. Obviously, we have fresh milk everyday and occasionally a goat or sheep is processed for its meat, organs, and pelt. Sheep wool is used for textile fiber and its fat is used to make soap. Solar powered portable electric fences are set up for the goats and sheep to graze during the day and then moved back into their pens in the evening.
The animal pens are cleaned daily, all of which is composted. There are about 36 laying boxes for the hens but some prefer to lay eggs in the ground so it’s like an easter egg hunt everyday. The green houses need to be opened and closed daily to allow for ventilation. All except for one is set up on irrigation timers. Tuesdays and Fridays CSA members come to pick up their allotment of fresh, organic fruit, vegetable, and milk.
Over the last ten years this farm has been in existence, much of the land has been cleared of the invasive trees resulting in quite a bit of chain saw work. Native deciduous trees have been planted throughout the property. There are endless projects going on all day long that would lead most to believe this to be a regular farm. However, this is where The Peaceful Path diverges and becomes anything but a ‘regular’ farm.
That’s because everyday at 8 o’clock, 6-9th grade students arrive at this Montessori school and partake in ALL of the jobs listed above-plus they have a full curriculum. Twelve year old students have conversations with adults in a way that isn’t, ‘like, whaaat?, I don’t know, oh my god’, weird.” Electronics are collected at community circle each morning where we share greetings, agendas, daily updates, and a reading of some sorts. Students process chickens, goats, sheep, make soap, tend to the greenhouses, gardens, chickens, horses, dirty pens, feedings, milking and processing, and spend time in the one room classroom. They sell arts and crafts at the Santa Fe farmer’s market, they cook and serve lunch everyday for themselves and the adults on campus, and they show up for weekend farm duties.
These kids have a better sense of self than most adults, can ask and answer questions, are challenged daily to figure out problems on the farm and in the classroom, and interact with animals and the earth. They are not uncomfortable with the life cycle; they volunteer to help process animals, placing them closer to their food source than most of us will ever imagine. Most importantly is that they want to be here. They can be themselves. They treat each other with respect and work together. There are, of course, moments when they act like children but most of the time the students do their chores without complaining. Why? Because that’s the expectation held by everyone working at the school. All of the adults on the farm help with chores and while students work with adult volunteers like me, they are learning to form different types of relationships with various age groups. I guess I’m not used to seeing kids who are interested in their surroundings and their work. I’m not used to interacting with children who can actually express their feelings. Actually, that’s not true. I had plenty of students share what an f’n waste of time it was to be in school.
An example of the tenderness found on the farm was recently experienced while I was milking a goat. It was getting a bit impatient, no doubt due to my lack of milking skills, so one of the students decided to help calm her while I milked. He leaned up against the side of the goat, gently threw his arms over her back, and just put his head on her back. He just stood there and talked to her a bit while I milked. It was a moment that reminded me how much love a child can have when allowed to express him/herself naturally.
Camino de Paz is much more than just a farm and a school. I have barely scratched the surface of what is happening here but I think it’s safe to say that this is the type of learning environment allows students to get the most out of their formative years. It was exactly what I needed after 14 years of working inside of a box and when compared to this farm, feels almost completely devoid of any meaningful learning opportunities. I would like to thank Patti and Greg for taking the initiative to start a school, a monumental task in and of itself, and to also run a farm, another full-time job. Although they rely on WWOOFers to help out, they are the ones outside of the spotlight that have dedicated their lives to educating students and make sure that everything runs smoothly. It is their vision that has in turn allowed students to find their own – something rarely found in schools these days.
To view more pictures of Camino de Paz School and Farm, visit http://itraveltolearn.com/ttl/Home.html
To learn more about Camino de Paz, visit their web site at http://www.caminodepaz.net/