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New Ipswich farm-to-school program poised to launch

  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

    New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

    New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

    New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

    New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

    New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm
  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm
  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm
  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm
  • New Ipswich, mansfield, mark summer, winter home farm

Mark Mansfield has had big plans for his sprawling New Ipswich farm, known as Winter’s Summer Home. Now, one of his visions is beginning to take shape, as he negotiates with Franklin Pierce University administrators to bring students to the farm to study sustainable agriculture and ecology as early as this summer.

On Friday, Mansfield met with representatives from Franklin Pierce’s sustainability and environmental science programs to put together a proposal for a farm-to-school program that would give Franklin Pierce interns and sustainability students the opportunity to use his farm as their classroom.

Mansfield said in an interview Thursday that he’s ready to take on this new challenge. What started as an idea to get students involved in the study of agriculture has grown considerably, he said.

“My vision hasn’t changed,” he said. “But the scope has widened, in terms of what we want to offer, and where we want to bring this farm. The original vision is still there, and the foundation of the idea, but the foundation has expanded in really big ways.”

Mansfield’s farm is 58 acres, and includes a pond and wetland and forested areas along with farmland. The diversity of the space is one of the most attractive things about it, according to Fred Rogers, an associate professor of geology and environmental science at Franklin Pierce.

“It’s a great advantage,” he said in an interview Thursday. “In this one track of land, there’s such a diversity. You have both farmland and wild areas on the same property. There’s a lot you can do in one place.”

Rogers said that after Mansfield is able to make a proposal to the college, if the proposed courses are accepted, students will be able to get their hands in almost immediately, with intern opportunities and a sustainable agriculture course beginning this summer. Once established, the farm could be used for ecology and biology students as well.

While the college hasn’t accepted the proposal, yet, preliminary conversations with the dean and provost of the colleges have been very positive, said Rogers. Franklin Pierce’s Sustainability Coordinator Jess Gerrior has been working to develop a course curriculum to put in place for students this summer.

“We’re trying to get these official relationships established quickly, and be ready to put programs in place this summer. We’re moving to get everything in place quite quickly,” said Rogers.

And while Franklin Pierce is poised to move on the project as soon as possible, Mansfield has also been approaching other area schools . ConVal High School, Mascenic Regional High School and nearby Massachusetts schools, Lawrence Academy in Groton and Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, have all expressed an interest in developing a relationship with the farm, said Mansfield.

Mascenic has recently been exploring their opportunities for expanding programs which allow students to gain real world experience, said Mascenic’s Interim Superintendent Betsey Cox-Buteau, and the farm seems like an opportunity to continue that trend.

“We are always interested in pursuing ideas that will lead to a positive learning experience for our students,” said Cox-Buteau. “Extended learning opportunities are an important part of the education process now. If we can get students out in the fresh air to learn things such as chemistry and biology, then that’s something we’re interested in.”

Cox-Buteau said the school would likely seek to establish one-to-one learning opportunities for students who were interested in some of the opportunities the farm presented.

“It’s still in the planning stages,” she said, “but we’re hoping this does evolve into something that will interest our students.”

Mansfield, along with Rogers and Gerrior, will be making a presentation to the university within the next two weeks, said Mansfield.

Pending the outcome of that presentation, the farm-to-school program will begin to move forward by the end of spring.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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