Q&A with Vera Simon-Nobes

Shelburne, Vermont 

May 2013

When and how did you get into farm-based education?
I worked with preschool-aged New Americans when I was in high school and had an amazing community garden as our classroom.  Though our focus was English language acquisition, the garden and the food it produced inspired our play and our conversations.  I saw how interacting with agriculture, even in a minimal way, facilitated wonderful learning and farm-based education quickly became an important part of my work.

As an AmeriCorps member with a cooking/nutrition program in the San Francisco Bay Area, I worked with hundreds of food insecure kids and adults.  The cooking and nutrition curricula were very engaging, but when hands-on agricultural experiences were added to the program, the impact grew and I became more eager to interface with whole-food-system education more directly.

Over the past two months, I've become well versed in agritourism as a facet of farm-based education.  I'm coordinating a three-year project through Shelburne Farms and the Vermont Farms Association to identify best management practices in agritourism, and to develop a resource that can assist farmers in meeting these best practices. Agritourism offers experiential education opportunities to farm-visitors of all ages, and can help with farm financial viability.  Vermont is looking to models around the world to learn how more and more farmers can teach visitors about the working landscape that keeps our pastoral state so beautiful.

What do you most look forward to about working with the FBEN team?
I'm ever-inspired by the collective knowledge that FBEN members hold, and look forward to helping facilitate a network for sharing this information.  I love to think that at the end of a wild day of summer camp, or a taxing Harvest Festival, farmers and educators can seek out support from FBEN members to make sense of the joy and challenges that come with farm-based education.

When you’re not hard at work, how do you enjoy your time?
Summer is my favorite time of year in Vermont.   My partner and I have a small homestead where we raise pastured chicken, vegetables and sheep that we keep for meat and wool. When not at work, you can usually find me jumping in Lake Champlain, wandering around a farmers' market or watching the lambs while thinking about all the gardening I should be doing!

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Shelburne Farms is the coordinating organization for the Farm-Based Education Network 

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