The Red & Black

Winchester’s Hidden Gem: Wright-Locke Farm

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kim Kneeland and Erika Gorgenyi from Wright-Locke Farm to discuss their career backgrounds and current positions at the farm, ways to get involved at Wright-Locke, and exciting events to look forward to this spring and summer.

Kelly: What are your roles at the Farm and how long have you been here?

Kim: I’m Kim Kneeland and I’m the Community Engagement Manager and Development Associate. I actually started at the Farm six years ago in the fields with our farmer Adrienne. Since then, I could never get away, or didn’t want to get away, because it’s such a cool organization with great people doing great things. I became Farm Stand Manager and then I’ve just slowly added different elements like doing the newsletter, starting up our speaker series, and a lot of other things that come along with working at a small non-profit.

Erika: I’m Erika Gorgenyi, the Director of Education. I’ve been on board for just over a year now. I’m coming from a background in outdoor and adventure education as well as some farming. Over the last several years, I’ve worked on a few small organic farms and CSAs and have done some farm-based education around the North Shore.

Kim [laughing]: She knows everybody in the farm world.

Kelly: Was this area of work always something that you both were interested in?

Kim: For me, I was interested in food to begin with. Growing up, I did a lot of food network watching and was fascinated by it but didn’t want to become a chef. At some point in college, I had the chance to work on our campus’ organic farm and it was so cool and all about connecting people and healing the community through food. That’s how I got invested in farming; I just saw how much it could do for people and kept farming each season before finding my way here.

Erika: I grew up in the city, near Boston, and would spend every summer up in New Hampshire with my grandparents and I always said that one day I would have a little farm and some animals. I kind of went away from that in college – I wanted to do education – but came back to the farm thing because of my love of the outdoors. I started backpacking and rock climbing more and really became passionate about the environment. I found my way to an educational farm that taught environmental and food education – it was kind of everything in one – and that launched my farm-based education career.

Kelly: Is there any particular reason that you chose Wright-Locke Farm?

Erika: Yeah. The community support really stood out to me and this just seemed like a really positive, healthy organization that I wanted to be a part of.

Kelly: A lot of people in town are unfamiliar with the Farm. What do you both of you wish they knew about it?

Kim: Well, one: that it exists. There are just so many people in and around our community that have no idea that a farm exists so close by. With that, I’d also like people to know just how many opportunities there are for different kinds of people. People don’t really think about going to a farm but it’s such a beautiful space to walk around in if you just want to get outside or go see some animals and brighten up your day. For people who are interested in simply learning more, there are cool workshops and volunteer opportunities. There’s a place here for almost everybody. Also, I’d like people to know that we are currently raising money to create a new year-round facility to increase our impact and make this farm a much more sustainable operation going forward. It’s so exciting!

Erika: Yeah, that is a big thing because, especially with education programs and other events that we do, we are limited by just one barn, one space. We can only accommodate these events on a seasonal basis right now. We can’t engage people in the winter as much because we just don’t have the heated space. It’ll be really important to be able to keep doing what we’re doing for the whole year.

Kim: It’ll jive with the school schedule too. Currently, we slowly run down as school is ramping up so it’ll be nice to be able to do some programming together. The building is really essential to that.

Kelly: Have you thought about any particular projects we could do with schools?

Erika: Well, so far, we’ve done some professional development with teachers. We are trying to help them understand what we have to offer here, as far as getting kids to come to the Farm or bringing these ideas into the classroom. We also have lots of field trips, mostly with the elementary schools, but we are looking for ways to get more middle and high schoolers involved. We do have some high school interns and some high school volunteers who do their community service hours on the Farm. We also get quite a bit of requests from high schoolers to do community service projects here. This summer, we are offering a new high school farmer program! We are doing that with Lexington Farm. We are both really close in proximity but have different things to offer so it’ll be a really neat thing to do.

Kim: Thinking forward to potential projects, it sounded like a lot of teachers that we’ve talked with are trying to figure out ways to get their current curriculums to be used in the real world and how that would fit in with Wright-Locke. I could totally see us being a hub for students interested in doing sustainability-related projects or helping us create a more sustainable farm. We could work with teachers to encourage kids to really try things out and practice out-of-box thinking.

Kelly: Experiential learning.

Kim: Yeah, exactly. We’re all about the hands-on learning, getting out into the woods, into the dirt.

Kelly: How could high school students, in particular, get involved if they’ve never been to the Farm before?

Kim: There are a couple of different directions they could go in depending on their interests. They could jump right into the field for field work, which we do everyday Tuesday-Saturday during the summer. That’s a great way to spend time outside, experience the Farm, and oftentimes do it in a communal way. You can bring your friends as long as you’re actually doing work – there’s no lollygagging on this farm! – but yeah, there’s a lot of community in volunteering. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you could jump in for family farm night on Thursdays during the summer. It’s a really fun, vibrant time. We always need bodies around to help us manage the fun chaos. When raspberry season comes along, I need folks to help welcome our visitors and help with the flow of raspberry pickers. It’s a great way to be social and spend time outside in the fall. If chickens are their thing, we’ve got chicken chore opportunities year-round. It’s all on your own schedule. In the wintertime, we’ve got goat chores as well.

Erika: And I’ll be looking for education help as well. You could be a junior counselor if you’re over fifteen and help volunteer with our youth programs. We have also talked about high school students getting involved with our board and being able to give input.

Kim: Yeah, and when I started out, a lot of the farm hands were high school students from the area so that’s always a opportunity. There are also positions in the farm stand.

Erika: I also just want to put in a plug for everything that Kim mentioned; you can go to our website’s volunteer page and filling out the form. That helps us find the right places for people.

Kelly: Are there any events coming up soon, this spring or summer, that people can look forward to?

Kim: Oh, so many.

Erika: Spring Fling.

Kim: Yeah. That’s going to be more of a full weekend event this year (Friday, May 10 through Sunday, May 12). We’re going to do some guided goat walks and fun workshops. There will be an art-on-the-farm workshop and a cocktail workshop for the older folks. Sunday will be “touch a tractor.” Also, we might have mushroom log inoculation – you’re basically hammering in little mushroom plugs into mushroom logs to make the next wave of mushroom stuff. There will be music, a plant sale. We have a speaker series coming up too. That’s definitely something that high schoolers could be interested in. It’s going to be related to climate change and sustainability – we’ve got some really cool speakers on those topics, from social justice & sustainability to oceans to sustainable diets. There will be a speaker session every month.

Erika: We have a volunteer work day coming up at the end of April.

Kim: Yeah. The 27th. Volunteer work day, cleaning up the farm. We’ll probably do a midsummer work day as well.

Erika: We’ll be doing, for those people that are interested in being on our chicken chore team, a training session in mid to late April. You can then sign up for different time slots. I also might be looking for some high school help with the April vacation program, which is in the mornings of that week, Monday through Thursday.

Kim: Do you have any workshops that you’re looking forward to this year?

Erika: Yeah, we offer adult workshops. We will start with some birding in the spring then go into forest bathing, which is a guided meditative walk in the woods. Also, some foraging walks and yoga in the barn during the summer when it’s warm. We do workshops on spoon carving, gardening and orcharding, cooking and preserving food as well – these are all listed on our website. We just did a mending workshop, learning how to mend our jeans, ripped jeans, in a funky way. That was really neat. We’ll probably do another one of those.

Kim: Anytime people want to, the farm is a good place for a picnic – come to the farm stand, hang out, grab some coffee, and talk a walk. On the simplest form, it’s a good space for that. We always welcome folks to come and enjoy the farm that way.

Kelly: Awesome! It was great talking to both you.