Location: Good Shepard Montessori School, South Bend, IN
History/Mission: To find out more about Bertrand Farm, I sat down with the founder and director of the non-profit organization, Theri Niemier. When asked about her mission, Theri explained she wanted to “build community through food… and to connect people to local food production in order to promote earth stewardship and health. Physical health, environmental health, and community health.” When she established the farm 22 years ago, however, Theri was most interested in having a better understanding about where her food came from. And so, as a mother of four kids and a kindergarten schoolteacher, Theri and her husband John bought and began to develop 10 acres of land in Niles, MI. Shortly after, Theri started bringing her kindergarten classes to explore the farm. She realized there was a fundamental disconnect between her kindergarteners and nature, and loved to watch as they blossomed in the mud and fresh air. Theri started a farm camp to get more kids on the farm, and eventually operating Bertrand Farm became her “more than full time” job. The Farm has developed a lot since then. It was initially focused on educating farmers on the importance of shifting away from industrial and towards restorative agriculture. More recently, Theri realized “the future of all this needs to be in the schools.” With a new focus on educating the next generation to be responsible consumers, Theri has plans to move the whole operation to Good Shepard Montessori School by this summer. This relationship began about 15 years ago, as the school was looking to incorporate farm education in its curriculum and as Theri was looking for a school to partner with. As the years went on, Theri saw how “every schoolyard is an opportunity” to spread the message of sustainable agriculture and local eating. This enriched educational program is not only beneficial to the schools; farmers who partner with schools gain valuable urban land to cultivate and a loyal customer base. “This is much bigger than a raised bed garden. It has lots of fingers… we’re bringing farmers together with schools and trying to demonstrate this as a win-win situation.” As an added bonus of the big move, Bertrand Farm is especially excited about reaching socioeconomic groups in South Bend who were previously unable to make it all the way to Niles.
Get involved: Support your local farmers: Theri suggests going to the Farmers Market and Purple Porch Co-op to learn more about who grows your food and how you can support them. Ask questions about where they grow, how they grow, and their mission. As far as getting involved with Bertrand Farm, Theri is excited about the opportunities for college aged students to volunteer now that she’s only a bike ride away from campus. Keep an eye on her website (http://bertrandfarm.org/) where she’ll start posting opportunities for students to help her out at Good Shepard. Bertrand farm is also an SSLP location, and she accepts interns every summer. Additionally, Theri teaches a one-credit class at Notre Dame in the spring semester titled “Introduction to Ecological Horticulture.”
Contact: Theri Niemier | firstname.lastname@example.org | http://bertrandfarm.org/