Two years ago, when mother-of-four Ashley Pruitt bought the 6-acre Whispering Oaks Farm in Fort Myers’ Buckingham area, she lacked farming experience but yearned for a self-sustainable lifestyle. She moved her family to the farm. Between math and English lessons, her homeschooled kids learned to care for piglets, baby goats, bunnies and chicks. Ashley wanted to extend the experience to the community and help the next gen better understand where their food comes from. Later that year, she launched her farm school for children aged 2 to 13.
The school’s four-week programs run from October to May. During the weekly two-hour sessions, students milk goats, incubate chicken eggs and socialize piglets, while learning anatomy and how to care for the animals. Weekend workshops, one-day festivals, multi-week gardening classes and private events, like birthday parties and overnight camping, are also available for schoolchildren and adults.
Whispering Oaks Farm school classes are capped at 15 students, and lessons take place outdoors for hands-on learning. Kids may tend to pregnant goats during a fall session, and return in the spring to care for the babies and help milk the mamas. At the end of the program, they earn a certificate. “For them to get the association of knowing these [creatures] are being used for food, and that we love them and they have personalities—it’s pretty cool to watch that connection,” Ashley says.