WESTFIELD — A non-profit, experimental learning facility now in its fourth year of highlighting sustainable food production and environmental stewardship is seeking to grow its presence in the area.
This is coinciding with Minglewood Farm & Nature Preserve in Westfield adding an environmental educator to its staff in late July to align student visits to the farm with the curriculums of Surry, Stokes and Forsyth county schools.
That person, Kyle Lutz, a PhD graduate of Wake Forest University, had volunteered at the farm for a couple of years, and now is working in a professional capacity to keep its mission blossoming.
“We give people an opportunity to go out and experience nature,” said Margie Imus, who co-owns Minglewood Farm & Nature Preserve with her husband Bill. “There is a lot to learn here.”
The 65-acre facility exists to lure people — particularly youths — away from the digital world via curriculum-based field trips, classroom programs, workshops and events, its operators say.
“These kids are just in front of screens so much,” Imus said. They might read about forests or farming in a book along with browsing the Internet for nature-related topics. But it’s not the same as being up close and personal with the Great Outdoors, “connected to it,” she emphasized.
“There’s a big disconnect with the natural world, and we have a wonderful place where we can share that world with others.”
Minglewood’s operators also recognize the rich farming tradition of Surry and Stokes counties, which many fear is being lost, and endeavors to teach the younger generation about its importance.
The couple bought the former tobacco farm in the late 1980s, rehabbed the land by adding organic matter to the depleted soil and began farming full-time, according to information from the Surry County tourism program. But the goal of Bill and Margie Imus from day one was to develop a higher use for the farm as a teaching tool and nature preserve.
Wooded areas with meandering trails make up most of Minglewood’s acreage. The couple farms seven to eight acres, including space for greenhouses and woody ornamentals. The two have grown pesticide-free produce and flowers for more than 25 years on the property.
The farm exists as a year-round educational resource offering field trip opportunities for students as well as adults, with room to accommodate additional visits on an already busy tour schedule.
“We can almost average one a week,” Margie Imus said of an annual total in the 45 to 50 range.
All visits are by appointment only, and scheduled events require advance registration.
“We are taking reservations for fall and winter,” Imus said of the visitation schedule. “Winter is an excellent time to come and experience the farm and nature.”
Along with school field trips, the farm welcomes groups of adults, such as garden clubs, retirement groups, church groups and photo clubs.
A small fee is required for visits, but some scholarships are available, according to Imus, who said the fees help offset operational and materials costs at the farm. And she reminded that “we just brought a PhD on board.”
Minglewood Farm & Nature Preserve, a 501c3 non-profit organization, also is supported by donations and has received grant funding to aid its efforts.
Margie Imus said she is happy to meet with any principals or teachers in the area who might be interested in aligning nature, science and other studies with activities at the farm. A PowerPoint presentation has been prepared to streamline this process.
“We are here for you,” is the farm’s message to educators, Imus added.
She said Minglewood already has established a relationship with J.J. Jones Intermediate School in Mount Airy.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.