Welcome to the farm! For those who have never visited Learning Tree Farm, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to introduce you to our beautiful property where nature, history, and agriculture come together to teach people of all ages about farming and our natural resources through hands-on interactions with all these elements. We maintain 85-acres of the farm’s original land and proudly protect and conserve - as part of a state-wide initiative - 64 acres of the farm’s forest. For more than 45 years, Learning Tree Farm has given thousands of visitors throughout the Miami Valley an opportunity for hands-on learning in a traditional farm setting. Providing these powerful and transformative experiences to approximately 13,000 visitors each year would not have been possible without the many generous donations and support from people like you.
Learning Tree Farm had a fantastic year in 2018. We accomplished many of our goals outlined in our strategic plan. With donations from loyal community supporters, we were able to add a gravel parking lot that allows year round parking for over 70 cars. We also built a larger, roofed enclosure to showcase the farm’s cows. The new shed allows visitors safe interaction with the cows and is also a comfortable, humane enclosure that keeps the cows safe and happy.
Not only did we complete several much-needed capital improvements around the property, we listened to the needs of our community and expanded both our field trip and community programming. We continue to see exciting and significant growth in attendance that represents the need in our community to have more access to the nature-based learning experiences that they can find at Learning Tree Farm.
Going into 2019, we look not only towards the upcoming year but towards our fiftieth year and beyond. We are dedicated to creating more opportunities for our local community to experience locally grown food from our tasting garden, and opportunities for physical activity to expose children and youth to healthy eating and the importance of exercise. We want more people to know what it feels like to hold a baby goat for the first time, how the natural world around us affects all of our daily lives, and how to best preserve open spaces for future generations. This type of education is even more vital in our world today than it was in 1973, and thanks to donors and support from the community and people like you, we will continue to rise and meet the growing need of farm-based nature education.
Chuck has been volunteering at the farm on Impact Day ever since he began working with Deloitte. Like his colleagues, he enjoys getting outside and making a difference, but he adds, “My favorite part of Impact Day is when there are kids that come out while we are working and we get to see them enjoying the things that we may have just worked on or had a part in maintaining for them."
Chuck values Impact Day at Learning Tree Farm so much that when they needed a new coordinator, he happily stepped up. His long-term commitment to the farm has enabled him to see not only the immediate differences the volunteers make, but also some of the bigger changes that Deloitte volunteer efforts have made possible.
Volunteers like those with the Deloitte Impact team are fundamental to the success of the farm, but Chuck tells me he and his colleagues benefit as well. “I would highly recommend volunteering at Learning Tree Farm for other business groups. It is a good opportunity to get out and give back to a worthy cause and also builds morale of the team as everyone knows they are contributing to the various projects that we see through to fruition while we are on site.”
Thank you to our amazing 2018 volunteer groups!
In 2018, 174 volunteers donated 925.5 hours. Groups included:
- Beta Theta Pi (University of Dayton)
- Alter High School
- Miami Valley School
- Bethel High School
- Centerville High School Wrestling Team
- Chaminade Julienne
- Building Bridges
- Goodwill Easter Seals
Volunteering Comes In All Shapes And Sizes
When our nature preschool students spend time outside, they often return to the school with muddy boots. With no designated boot area, students lined their boots up outside the door.
One student's grandfather saw a need and jumped into action. He built and installed an amazing boot rack to keep our entryway clear and organized. His boot rack is used daily and has been an amazing addition to our Nature Preschool Building.
We are so grateful to have such an amazing community, willing to step in when they see a need.
Are you interested in volunteering at Learning Tree Farm? Contact our volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
Nature Preschool Highlights
The Nature Preschool has completed its third year high in demand with full-to-capacity enrollment.
The Nature Preschool’s philosophy from the beginning has included a desire to encourage continuation of our community after children leave our daily care. Our Alumni are invited to two annual preschool events: ur annual farm-to-table dinner which is put on by parent and staff and our annual ‘graduation’ camp-out. These moments are touchstones in the lives of families past and present as well as the teachers as we reconnect and recommit to our shared goals of living in touch with our local outdoor environment and local food systems.
This year, alumni parents have worked with Learning Tree Farm’s staff and teachers to begin an afternoon enrichment class for their children to reconnect monthly and visit the farm. These parents plan a few activities and allow a lot of time for animal interaction and free exploration after a long school day. We are so happy to encourage this lifelong connection to place. This mirrors the connection that farm staff sees when adults from the Dayton community bring their children back and share memories from their childhood with our founders Jean Ryan and Sally Keyes. It is a heartwarming feeling to watch all of these members of the Learning Tree Farm community mingle in our timeless farm environment.
Nature Preschool Statistics
- 30 children spent 400 hours outside each year.
- All nature preschool students progressed in all developmental areas including social emotional, physical, language, literacy, math, and cognitive.
- 102 current and past students, parents, siblings, and grandparents involved in our Farm to Table preschool community dinner.
- Fully licensed by the state of Ohio
- Star 3 of the Ohio Step Up To Quality rating was awarded in April 2018.
- Leadership serves on the board of Miami Valley No Child Left Inside
Meet Our Nature Preschool Alumni Enrichment Group
It’s late afternoon on a late autumn day. The light is already fading; the temperature is 30℉ and dropping; there’s an ice storm on the way. Most of us were heading to our cozy homes for warm dinners and hoping that nothing would require heading out again, but not the Learning Tree Farm Nature Preschool Alumni Enrichment Group! Nothing keeps these devoted friends from their monthly get-together.
I find the alumni parents gathered around a bonfire sipping hot cocoa. The children in their puffy parkas are running in every direction: chasing one another, balancing on rocks, hugging goats. Parents and children alike are bundled in warm layers, all firm believers in one of Nature Preschool’s fundamental philosophies, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
Still, you have to wonder what it is about Learning Tree Farm that brings these families back even after a long day of kindergarten, even in the frigid weather, so I ask.
“You know.” one parent tells me, arms extended as if to embrace the farm, the fields, the forest, “It’s special. We’d keep coming here if we could--I mean, for school, for kindergarten. Actually, all the way through high school, if we could.”
Another parent explains, as we watch her daughter belly crawl down a hill, “There’s just something the kids get here that they don’t get at a regular school. They need this. They need to be able to run, well, not just run--run wherever they want.”
After the children have had some time to do exactly that, to run and explore, it’s time for a Native American story about the origin of the talking stick and the importance of listening. The parent coordinator for the day provides a little history and context and reads the story to the group with sound effects provided by her daughter.
Some of the older children read along. One boy stretches out on rocks with a copy of the story. He looks as comfortable reading there as any child at a desk or on a couch. Later, while the children make their own talking sticks, a parent asks the boy, “What did you like most about Nature Preschool?”
“Everything.” he says, “Especially being with all of you.”
We have identified On Purpose Academy as a great partnership for Learning Tree Farm. The organization works with children from Downtown Dayton who have little or no exposure to rural, farming, or natural environments.
Like many of the students who visit the farm, On Purpose Academy Mentoring Center participants are from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, living in urban or suburban settings. 98.5 percent of their participants receive free or reduced lunches at school. 100 percent of the students attend Dayton Public Schools or Horizon Science Academy (located in the DPS district).
Our partnership incorporates field trips to the farm and visits from our staff to the On Purpose Academy Center. When visiting the farm, students have access to our tasting garden where they have the opportunity to taste fresh produce. With the help of our staff, students planted and cared for a garden at their center as well!
Miami Vally Child Development Centers (MVCDC)
Learning Tree Farm and MVCDC have continued our partnership to bring access to agriculture and nature to their students for four years.
Each month throughout the school year, 45 students from West Dayton visit the farm as part of our field-trip partnership.
Throughout the year, MVCDC visitors spend 800 hours outside while visiting our farmyard, forest, and fields.
Our other amazing partners!
Each week, a small group of developmentally disabled adults from Goodwill Easterseals of The Miami Valley visit the farm and work with one of our Farm Educators to both develop skills and enjoy the farm!
As part of a weekly program in partnership with the Montgomery County Juvenile Court system and Building Bridges, at risk teenagers visit the farm and work with our Garden Manager and Maintenance Staff!