WEST NEWBURY — On July 9, as temperatures soared into the 90s — again — 38 children from Chelsea came to West Newbury to get a taste of life on a working farm.
And what a taste they got! In the morning, they threshed wheat, gathered eggs, picked raspberries and dug potatoes. In the afternoon, they had french fries made from the potatoes they had harvested and ate pancakes made from their wheat and eggs, topped with their raspberries and maple syrup made from the farm's trees.
In between, the children learned about sustainable farming practices. They fed "bad" raspberries to baby pigs and fed potato bugs to the chickens. They watched a skit based on Eric Carle's book "Pancakes, Pancakes" and took a walk to the Artichoke River to see a beaver dam. And they took turns making bowls on a potter's wheel with the Rt. Rev. Thomas Shaw, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
This one-day outing was arranged as part of the Episcopal Diocese's annual B-SAFE program for 440 elementary and middle school children in lower-income urban neighborhoods. The five-week program balances academic support and enrichment with basic summer fun. Most mornings, the program focuses on reading, writing, mathematics and other school subjects; in the afternoons, the children are able to play in a safe environment. One day each week, the children go on a field trip, usually to a location outside the city.
This group's field trip was to Emery House in West Newbury, which has a Community Supported Agriculture farm run by the Society of St. John the Evangelist monks. The field trip was sponsored by St. James Episcopal Church, Amesbury, and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Newburyport. St. James is an Emery House shareholder, and each week, the congregation gives its portion of the harvest to families in need, either within the parish or through the Our Neighbors' Table program in Amesbury.
The local parishes provided 23 volunteers to help with the field trip, as well as snacks and bagged lunches for the children to eat under the shade of a huge walnut tree. Emery House staff Rick Richards, Tara O'Neil, Michael Graskemper and Dr. Brent Was helped guide the children as they learned about agricultural cycles through the hands-on activities.
Dr. Was, caretaker, said, "We're so excited to be able to share the beauty and abundance of Emery House. That helps the land help people know God."
At the end of the day, the children and their B-SAFE counselors returned to St. Luke's/San Lucas Church in Chelsea — dirty and tired, but with a slightly wider knowledge of the world they live in.
Submitted by Liz Iacobucci and Cindy Janik.