As the cow moves across the lawn the white goose goes off on a rant. The cow answers in the same manner, like it’s yelling back – before disappearing down the hill. They are having an agrument of sorts. Same ritual happens with the next encounter between goose and cow.
– The geese are territorial, Sidsel Sandberg laughs.
Her animals never stop amusing her. A huge Saint Bernard is lazing around looking like a cuddly teddybear. But if you get too close, she’ll jump on you, having no idea how heavy she is. Sidsel is working on the dogs manners, but right now she is busy attending to the bunch of teenagers who’s just arrived at the farm. They come from the nearby Nannestad Secondary School, and are working at the farm all week. The weather is fantastic. All shorts and rolled up sleeves.
Sidsel has been living on this beautiful, organic farm since 1966, and she has welcomed classes from the school for the last seventeen years. Now all 550 pupils get their turn to work at the Hegli farm. When Sidsel worked at Nannestad as a teacher, she noticed how more and more pupils struggled with the classroom teaching, so came up with an idea: Instead of bringing plants to the school, why not bring the kids home to the farm? In 1998 Sidsel and her late husband started working on the building that would house the pupils. It was almost falling down on its own, so they dismantled and re-built it. Thick timer walls. Rough stone flooring. No internet in here.
It feels like going back in time. A long communal table sits in the middle of the kitchen. Another one fills the dining room next door. In here, children eat their meals every day when they are at the farm.
Food Studio spent two days at the farm together with japanese chef Masayo Funakoshi. Hegeli delivered a cows leg and vegetables to the up coming event “Soil Procession” in Oslo, and for Masayo who is doing the cooking for the event, this is a very important part; to meet with the farmer, discuss and share knowledge about proper food.
The pupils are divided into groups, and the kitchen team is cooking the very traditional dish “lapskaus” with vegetables and meat form the farm. Cooking is a big part of their education on the farm so that they learn the full circle; they sow the seeds, grow the plants, feed the animals, harvest, slaughter, cook and eat.
Hegli Farm is part of a project called “Living School” and is a so called example farm. Every class works a total of four weeks at the farm throughout their three years in high school. One week at the time through the year. This way they learn about the various seasons and can watch the animals grow. A couple of girls are off to feed Storm, the horse, buckets in hands and with bandanas around their heads.
Arndis and Ranya are helping Cecilie picking nettles for a purè chef Masayo is going to use.
– I got stingy nettles on my legs. Uh, it hurts. But, I have a solution, Arndis says.
She picks a dandelion, breaks open the hollow stem and rubs it on the sting.
– It chills, and in five minutes I wont feel a thing, she says happily.
– The best thing about being here is working with the animals – and escaping homework! The girls conclude.
The team also picks other herbs like Angelica and ground elder to use in a salad. Some of the pupils are busy in the garden, tending to the plants already there and sowing some new together with teacher Martha Fodnes who works full time at the farm.
– Using their whole bodies as well as their minds in the learning process is incredibly valuable, Martha says.
– All children should be allowed these experiences.
The unrest that are troubling some of the young when at school sort of vanishes here. Of course the pupils don’t always agree and sometimes they drag their feet, but overall the adults working with them experience children in peace. Being out all day, building muscles, tending to the animals, taking Storm out for a ride in the field, they can count themselves lucky. For now. The politicians have been wise enough to keep Hegli farm as part of the education for Nannestad High School, but the project is under constant threat. The farm has three years left on a five year contract with the local government, and everyone here hopes it will continue after this.
– It’s great fun and very fulfilling to teach the young where our food comes from. I find that they like getting their hands dirty. Some don’t express how they feel as clearly as others, but a lot of times you can just tell by their faces. What they experience here is that everyone have the ability to succeed, Sidsel says.
The last week they stay at the farm is rather special, for both the pupils and for Sidsel. They then prepare and cook a feast of a meal – and invite their grandparents to come and eat with them.
– On a farm there are so many different jobs that needs to be done, and everyone will find something they enjoy and are good at. For the pupils who struggle with sitting behind a desk all day, the work we do here can be very good, Sidsel says.
The work at the farm also helps develop the pupils’ cooperation skills. As Sidsel explains:
– At the farm they have to work together as a community.
In a society that seems to have lost some of it’s communal spirit, that lesson just might prove to be the most valuable of all.
Words by Tina Aasen
Photographs by Monica Løvdahl
Documentation produced in collaboration with Nofima – Innovation Programme