The Spring Hills Farm has a long tradition of hosting educational programs for both children and adults. The Farm provides a variety of natural and agricultural environments for learning about sustainable agriculture, living in harmony with nature, and creating visual and performance art.
The programing is founded on providing hands-on, experiential learning, with a heavy emphasis on seeing nature up close and experiencing natural phenomena. The programming provides numerous opportunities for hands-on engagement in farming and sustainability practices. The programming is tied intrinsically to the Farm and its natural surroundings. Indeed, the entire experience is grounded in an immersion into nature, and the ways that this immersion can counterbalance the “civilized” surroundings where most people spend the majority of their time. Placing educational and artistic activities into the context of Nature enables a comprehension of the unity and synergy across the natural world, the sciences, and the Arts.
For over a decade the Farm has offered a series of live-in painting workshops for adults. For over five decades the Farm has hosted half-day and full-day farm visits for adults and school-age children. The programming draws on a wide range of topics including the following:
• Making maple syrup
• Sheep shearing and wool production
• Draft horse care and use on a small farm
• Field and soil management
• Successful pesticide-free farming
• Experimental crops/Learning to adapt to environmental changes
• Conservation and agricultural easements
• Raising chickens
• Identifying and using indigenous plants
• Creating fruit preserves and jams
The art program at Spring Hills Farm is a centerpiece of its outreach. Tim Hawkesworth and Lala Zeitlin conduct several in-person resident workshops each year, drawing artists from all over the country. Tim Hawkesworth is an internationally known artist and educator, and is now a resident at the Farm. The following description comes from him:
“When you make art, you slow down, you have to establish contact - deep, sustained contact. You learn discernment. You learn how to peel away conditioning and to establish a direct relationship with how you are affected. James Joyce called this ‘the reality of experience.’
“When our practice is connected to immersion in the natural world - this reality of experience - this close unfiltered attention - puts our work on the front lines of the fundamental challenge of our time. How to live sustainably on this planet and foster, not destroy, the rich diversity all around us. Our art, which works with our internal architecture and refreshes our ways of seeing and understanding, is an essential tool in this work.
“We live in a trance induced by consumerism. We are conditioned not to see clearly and not to make real contact with the reality of experiencing life on this planet. The breaking of this trance, the deep personal and communal work needed to see freshly and discern for ourselves - to break free from the illusion and the conditioning - this is the work of the artist. The tools needed are embedded in our practice.
“This contact, this place of silence and receptivity, is an action of the heart assisted by the mind. It is our chest that opens to receive. It is our knowing heart that gives access to our creativity and makes contact with the soul. As we seek to shift our global mindset from the mechanics of exploitation to that of sustainability, we need this deeper indigenous relationship with nature. Such relationships that have existed before in human history have always had a spiritual dimension. This is what has been lost in our global economy, and it is what we can start to foster and refine in the solitary contact we make with the natural world. This is the motivation and grounding for all of the Arts programming at the Spring Hills Farm.”
The Spring Hills Farm and the Spring Hills Foundation are strongly committed to supporting and including diverse peoples and communities. Since 1946 when the Hull family purchased the Farm there has been a continuous legacy of welcoming people of all faiths, colors, sexual orientations, physical ability and political persuasions. The Farm continues to provide a welcoming and safe place for all people, and the Farm and Foundation embrace these values in all of our educational programming. This is based on the underlying truth that we are one people sharing one planet.
The Diversity Council of the Foundation was formed as part of our commitment to expand ways that all people, especially those from underserved, marginalized, and disenfranchised communities, can participate in our programming. This includes all levels of participation, from attending programs, to creating and running them, to helping with the overall management of the Foundation. We strive to acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities in order to best create inclusive, loving and healing spaces for everyone. As we move forward, we will strengthen and develop existing partnerships and create new ones. We will adapt our outreach, programming, and governance to ensure meaningful experiences for all.
A particular focus is to develop future programs with and for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). We realize that the first step is to educate ourselves about local BIPOC communities and how our culture has systematized racism. We continue to learn how we can best serve these communities and act as allies against the cancerous impact of systemic racism. This is especially relevant in the context of family farming, given the many institutionalized obstacles that continue to hinder BIPOC people that attempt to create their own farms.
We invite you to watch a video from Scranton area TV station WNEP that was made when the Spring Hills Farm hung a Black Lives Matter flag on the Sugar House in August 2020.
The Farm has a deep history of sustainability and conservation practices. Under the leadership of Margaret Hull, the Farm switched to organic production in 1985, and discontinued all use of man-made chemicals. The Farm has also implemented numerous practices that have come to be known as “regenerative farming”, aiming to improve soil health and reverse climate change. This includes time-controlled grazing and using composted animal manure rather than man-made fertilizers. In 1998, the Farm placed 114 acres into an agricultural easement through the Lackawanna County Agricultural Land Preservation Program. Also, in 1998 and 2011 the Farm placed a total of 157 acres of forest and bottomlands into conservation easements with the Countryside Conservancy. This was coordinated with other conservation entities to form a contiguous aggregate of over 2100 acres of conserved lands. The conservation easements on the Farm include a section of public trail that connects the Lackawanna State Park with the Messimer Preserve.