A group of teens gathers quietly in the predawn darkness. Dressed in warm clothing, they meet before breakfast to help capture and pack broiler chickens to be taken to a slaughterhouse. They fed, watered, and watched the birds grow; now they prepare them for their final trip. Eventually, the birds will return as meat and be cooked for the teens to eat.
High school students at Olney Friends School, located on 350 acres near Barnesville, Ohio, witness the cycle of birth and death time and again during their four years on campus. Founded in 1837 to serve the children of Quaker families, Olney has always had a farm program and students have been involved in its operation to varying degrees.
Photo courtesy of Mark Hibbett
During the past decade, Olney has integrated farm work and food production into every aspect of student life, from the barn to the kitchen to the classroom. In 2015, Olney became the nation's first USDA-certified organic campus.
"Olney has had conservation practices to protect the environment in place for a hundred years," says Don Guindon, farm manager. Guindon spent his childhood on the school farm, where his father served for decades in the position he now holds. He's continued the sustainable practices—the use of crop rotation, cover crops, and contour plowing—that help maintain soil fertility and combat erosion. The farm also produces and uses about 40 tons of compost annually, utilizing manure and kitchen waste from the school as well as the autumn leaves gathered by the nearby town.