With the help of student farmers, their families and teachers, Tania Herbert, farm manager of the Paideia School Farm, raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens at a number of small urban farm sites for The Paideia School in Atlanta, Georgia.
Tania started her career as a social worker, before moving into community waste management and composting and, eventually, urban farming. “I love working with children in and around sustainability,” she says. “I added all these passions up and gravitated to the best job of my life—urban farming!” Tania now works with students to raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens and grow delicious fruits and vegetables, as well as manage bees and meat chickens.
The school’s urban farming activities began when families in the neighborhood loaned under-utilized land to the Paideia School to create the farm. “We’ve converted lawns and other spaces into food growing oases,” says Tania. The Paideia School Farm now consists of small plots of land that are co-located around the school neighborhood. “We grow using organic farming principles and borrow ideas from permaculture and biodynamics to improve the soil, air and water, and enhance the biodiversity of wildlife in the local ecosystem, while producing food in abundance for humans,” Tania explains. As well as growing fruits and vegetables, the Paideia School Farm raises a flock of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens. The flock consists of around 30 hens and one rooster, with Black Australorpe, Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Ameraucana, Salmon Favarole and Red Star. The birds are raised outdoors on pasture where they can perform natural behaviors like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds.
“Our students are careful to provide the hens with lots of exercise, fresh air, sunlight and time to move around our farm, where the birds can hunt for insects and help fertilize the soil. It’s a great collaboration,” Tania explains. “This year we are hatching and raising Dominiques and Brabanters as part of our curriculum, focusing on biodiversity and high-welfare treatment of animals that are raised for food. Our chickens are an important part of our school community. They provide opportunities to discuss sustainability, animal welfare, and what it means to be responsible for living creatures and good stewards of the land. They also bring us endless entertainment and joy.”
The chickens also provide significant educational opportunities and benefits for the wider school community, beyond practical farm management: “Raising chickens also provides hands-on learning in areas like biology, chemistry, math, design and social justice, while connecting students to the natural world. Students are also able to see the many advantages to an outdoor, pasture-based system. The chickens are healthier, the eggs are tastier, and we reduce our feed costs. The chickens provide us with food, insect control and provide manure to improve the fertility of our soil.”
The Paideia School Farm chose to pursue AGW certification because of AGW’s emphasis on agricultural systems that support the health and welfare of animals, humans and the environment: “We want our students to be hopeful, knowledgeable and engaged when it comes to keeping our communities healthy and safe, and one of the ways to do this is to practice high-welfare and sustainable ways of feeding ourselves’” says Tania. “AGW provides us with an educational platform to do this.”
In the future, the farm hopes to begin raising turkeys for their school community, and to grow a larger variety of forages for the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens. “Our expectation is that the girls will be healthier, we will save money on feed costs and the eggs will be even tastier!” Tania adds.
The Paideia School Farm delivers thousands of pounds of produce to Atlanta soup kitchens and food pantries, and the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW eggs from the farm are sold to the school community and gathered for use in student cooking classes. For more information about The Paideia School Farm, visit the farm’s website and contact Tania Herbert at 404-275-9644.