Students from Benjamin Franklin High School's Environmental Club got a glimpse at life on the farm last week, and they didn't even have to leave the neighborhood.
The students spent several hours at Cityfarm on Sunday, a one-acre parcel in Glassell Park run by longtime Franklin High School substitute teacher Reies Flores.
According to club supervisor Karla Johnson, the trip taught the students some valuable lessons about all the hard work that goes into producing the sorts of food they eat every day.
Students helped pick up trash and bulky items that had been illegally dumped near the entrance to Cityfarm at the end of Loma Lada Drive. Afterward, they spent a few hours helping to reinforce the fence around a grazing field used by Cityfarm lambs.
"They were definitely helpful," Flores said. "Without their help it would have taken three or four days for me to reinforce that fence."
The field trip's manual labor served an educational purpose, as well. All of the cement blocks used to reinforce the fence were recycled from a construction site. Likewise, all the animal pens on the Cityfarm were made from recycled material.
"We talked about sustainable farming and how we use recycled materials to build everything on the farm," Flores said.
After the work was done, students had the opportunity to meet the ducks, chickens, lambs and pig of the Cityfarm.
Flores, who is not a vegetarian, said that field trip ended with a conversation about the ethics of eating meat. The conversation was not about whether doing so was right or wrong, rather about the importance of understanding the work that goes into producing meat and respecting the sacrifices made by the animals.
Johnson said seeing the animals up close and personal was a valuable experience for the students, many of whom had never seen livestock before.
"This was a big eye opener for them," she said. "They live in the big city, they don't see this sort of wildlife."