Education at Windhorse Farm is experimental.
Windhorse Farm is a 168 year-old experiment in sustainability, an experiment based on four general disciplines: stillness, study, contemplation, and work. From the time of first European settlement of this spot, the "woodlot" has been managed according to a particular set of principles and practices. During that time it has been logged nearly every year without diminishing the standing crop of timber or degrading the functional integrity of the forest.
There are several sorts of opportunities offered at Windhorse Farm for relaxing, studying and practicing. Open Farm Days and guided tours offer glimpses into how things work here: gardens, orchards, wetlands, woodlands, sawmill, woodworking shop, horses, and so on. More extensive and intensive periods of study and practice also are possible.
The Windhorse vision is that there is the possibility of discovering enlightened society. It is our wish that, through providing opportunities for the study and practice of genuine rural disciplines, we can help nudge our world toward sustainability: ecologically, socially, economically, spiritually, and magically.
It has been said that our vision is unrealistic or too big, but this criticism may be a result of thinking that the disciplines of sustainability and enrichment are too small or too theoretical. Our objective is to wake up to the magnitude of suffering in this world and to develop practical solutions which are powerful enough to make a difference. Farmers and foresters of the future will contribute significantly to the creation and maintenance of a sustainable society.
The education and training of a farmer or forester progresses through three stages which are cumulative and recurring. The first is the rediscovery of one's own personal heart connection with "forest." This is accomplished by spending lots of time in the forest doing as close to nothing as possible, getting relaxed, getting stimulated, getting bored, getting wet, getting stuck, getting blown away. Without an intimate, sensual connection between one's own mind/body and the rest of the forest, there is no useful place to begin on the path.
The second phase is studying the relevant fields of science and economics: geology and soils, stream dynamics and groundwater hydrology, landscape ecology and conservation biology, community economic development, bioregional trade, full cost accounting, home economics, and so on. An understanding of science and economics is essential to the practice of reasonable farming and forestry; however without the foundation of a deep personal connection, it is like trying to build the walls of a house on a foundation of sand.
The third phase is doing it, in the woods and fields, with our own hands. This is the essential practice which joins the vision with the practicality. If we don't know the pain and pleasure of physical work, then the heart connection and scientific knowledge is wasted. On the other hand, hard work without the proper motivation and understanding can result in tremendous damage to the ecosystems. It is like trying to put up the roof of a house before the walls are constructed.
After gaining experience with the real work, then one must reconnect with nature, continue the study of science and economics, and keep working -- round and round for a whole life. This is what the experiment at Windhorse Farm is about.