GFP029: Farm Education with Diane Swanson of the Pratt Nature Center

Education is crucial on the farm, especially as consumers are becoming more aware of what is in their food. Questions are being raised as to whether what we are eating is healthy or not. The public is eager to know just who their farmer is. It is up to you to feed that need, provide the answers your (potential) customers are looking for, and become "their farmer".

On my farm this year I have done, and continue to do a whole lot of education. It is pretty hard to sell someone a whole chicken when they don't know what to do with it once they get it. I not only provide my customers with information on where the chickens come from, how they were raised, and how they meet their end, I also give them advice on what to with with a whole bird once they get it.

Sharing all of this information has helped me not only get customers, but keep them happy. Some of the avenues I use to keep my members in the loop are:

There is another form of farm education that is equally, if not more important. That is simply showing kids how things are done on the farm. The biggest shock to me when I started my investigation of our food system was how ignorant I was. There was this whole other way that I had never really been privy to.

You have the power to effect a generation with your farm. You can give kids that glimpse into the life of a farmer that will give them a deeper appreciation for their food, might encourage them to live healthier, and will have a trickle up (down and all around) effect as they grow up. Who knows, one day they might grow up to start a farm of their own and a podcast to go with it.

My guest today runs a successful Nature Center that helps educate about agriculture and its' effect on the world. The real success if the education the kids and adults are receiving when they visit the Pratt Nature Center. However, seeing as this is the Growing Farms Podcast I asked Diane all about how she got started and how she gets all those kids to attend.

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In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How the Pratt Center got started and what you can learn from that
  • How to attract 6,000-7,000 kids a year to your farm
  • How to give people achievable goals and why
  • What the best type of farm marketing is
  • Blogging to bring people to the farm
  • Social Media and connecting with your customers
  • The importance of collaboration
  • Three things you get from nature every day

Interview with Diane Swanson of the Pratt Nature Center

farm-education-with-diane-swanson

Diane Swanson joined the Pratt Nature Center as the Program Director in June 2010 and was named the Director in December 2010 and Executive Director in January 2012.  For over 20 years, Diane has been working with the youth of New Milford.

Diane credits her parents for her love of nature.  Her parents, residents of New York City, provided her the opportunity to connect with nature by spending summers and weekends in the New Milford area.  She learned to enjoy nature by digging in the dirt, climbing trees, swimming, building forts and catching frogs.

Diane is looking forward to re-connecting the children, the families and the community with nature and helping them reap the social, emotional and academic benefits that nature provides.

Diane received her  B.A. in Elementary Education from Concordia College, Bronxville, NY in 1990.

The Pratt Nature Center

The Pratt Nature Center is a 201-acre wildlife preserve and environmental education center in Litchfield County, CT. The land is diverse - with a mountain, meadows, woods, wildlife, gardens, farm animals, a stream, a pond, and wetlands, providing wonderful opportunities for outdoor fun, discovery and adventure!

Pratt Nature Center offers hiking, bird-watching, community garden plots and nature education for all ages including programs tailor-made for the classroom or scout troop as well as for family or community enjoyment and learning

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

pratt-center-farm-blog-post
farm on facebook

Take aways:

What are you doing to educate your customers? Are you on Social Media? Do you have a website?

How could you benefit from opening up your farm (more) to visitors to allow for teachable moments?

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My skills are ever-evolving as an interviewer. Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.