Kindle Farm School celebrates big year

Friday May 24, 2013

NEWFANE -- An all-terrain vehicle, a log splitter, a network of maple taps and even a new spot for growing mushrooms are the fruits of a fundraising campaign conducted by Kindle Farm School administrators and students.

The independent school also has landed grants that paid for a new greenhouse and garden at the 100-acre Kindle Farm property.

All in all, Assistant Director Drew Gradinger said, "It's been a pretty successful year."

To celebrate that year and to raise more funding, the school -- which serves boys in grades two through 12 with specialized-education needs -- has scheduled a concert and plant sale from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 26.

Live music -- featuring Mark Borax, Jennie Reichman and Kevin and the Hous-Tones -- is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. at the farm on Route 30 at the Newfane-Townshend line. Refreshments and baked goods also will be available, and all proceeds benefit the school.

Kindle Farm held its first plant sale last year as administrators kicked off a capital campaign aimed at improving the school's vocational programs. Those programs account for one-fifth of the Kindle Farm curriculum and include skills such as farming and food production, carpentry and forest management.

The school boasts nearly as many staff members (37) as students (44), and administrators say they focus on students who have "a variety of emotional, behavioral, neurological and learning needs."

With an emphasis on individualized and small-group instruction, Kindle Farm is "pretty much operating at capacity," Gradinger said.

That includes operations at the farm and at a facility a short distance down Route 30 in Newfane where students participate in individualized-needs programs with a student-staff ratio of 1-to-1.

"It's really a relationship-based school," Gradinger said.

At the farm, however, staff members needed more "tools" to better utilize the land, Gradinger said. Hence, the fundraising effort.

"We got all the students to write friends and family, and then the administration went after businesses," he said.

The result was $16,000 raised from community donations. In particular, administrators singled out contributions from New Chapter, Durand Toyota, WW Building Supply, The Richards Group, Brattleboro Sheet Metal, Lester Dunklee and Steve White.

That cash went toward the purchase of an all-terrain vehicle with a trailer as well as a log splitter. That equipment "allows us to get into the woods" and offers students additional hands-on experience on the farm, Gradinger said.

"We have a pretty vibrant firewood business that the kids participate in," he said.

Donations also funded a new sugar-maple operation at Kindle Farm.

"We were able to purchase all of the equipment needed to tap 200 trees," Gradinger said, adding that school staff then took the extra step of making syrup from the sap.

"We went way beyond what our goal was," he said. "Now, we're having maple-syrup breakfasts."

Additionally, students prepared 40 logs for a shiitake-mushroom-growing operation.

"We're really just trying to increase the dynamism of food production around here, and to better educate the kids," Gradinger said.

That education now is happening in a new garden and a new greenhouse, as well. The garden comes courtesy of a $5,000 grant from Sacred Seeds, a Missouri-based nonprofit that promotes gardens containing locally important plants.

After passing a gateway stone that was split by Kindle Farm students, visitors enter a garden that includes blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, asparagus and garlic among other plants.

The greenhouse was funded by a $3,600 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Constructed this spring, it measures 30 feet by 48 feet and features hot-house tomatoes.

The structure is framed by timber harvested on the farm. On a humid Tuesday morning, some students and staff members worked in a field outside the greenhouse while others participated in classroom instruction inside the school.

"This is really a community," Gradinger said as he walked from the greenhouse to the school building. "That can't be faked."

Mike Faher can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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