Teaching families farm skills in Twin Falls
It was 10am on a Saturday and I’d already been chased by a turkey. Roaming around the front yard of the Tubbs’ Farm School, the enthusiastic fowl served as an unlikely greeter at the Twin Falls home of Kirk and Heidi Tubbs, where eight families would soon arrive for class.
“He won’t hurt you!” shouted Kirk with a grin.
Two families, also avoiding the turkey, followed me through the front door into the spacious dining room. There, a large wooden table was covered with leaves, seeds, plastic planters and buckets full of fragrant soil. One seasoned student was busy stuffing leaves into the planter bottoms.
“This way the dirt doesn’t all fall out,” the student explained to the newbies.
The Farm School began two years ago as a part of Tubbs’ Berry Farm, a small, chemical-free family farm in south Twin Falls. The Farm School started with a few volunteers and has since grown into an eightmonth, all-ages course that begins in February and continues through October. The $300 per family tuition covers hands-on instruction for planting, growing, pruning and harvesting a large variety of crops. In addition, the school teaches beekeeping and animal husbandry skills.
One CSA basket is included with tuition, so Farm School participants can enjoy the food they help plant and grow throughout the season. The school meets one or two Saturdays a month from February through October.
“I came here to learn how to be healthy and get more acquainted with bugs,” said Chelsea Read, a medical alert technician who registered for the course with her mother and niece.
Throughout the course, Read and her 10 Farm School peers learned to grow and prepare their own food, which Heidi hopes will also transform their overall health.
“We can sell you food, but if we can teach you where it comes from and to appreciate it, it changes your whole interaction and health,” said Heidi. “It’s like that proverb: ‘Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ We had a family that did the school for fun, they ended up losing weight, eating differently and feeling better. We love to hear that.”
The Tubbs’ Farm School curriculum is unique due to its duration and scope. Scott and Stephanie Geraughty enrolled in the Tubbs’ Farm School with their 2-year-old daughter, Rylie. Prior to Farm School, the Geraughtys had never planted a garden of their own.
“We started seeds at home and found it mind-blowing that this little seed will turn into what we eat,” said Stephanie. “Ultimately, these are the basics for living. It’s about learning life skills involving not sitting in front of the TV all day.”
According to Heidi, some of the skills taught in the school are determined by participants. For example, a butchering component was added last year by request. And since many enrolled families don’t have farm animals, the addition of animal husbandry—which includes sheep shearing, goat tending and beekeeping—has been an eye-opening experience.
“I felt this oily stuff on my hands while we were shearing,” explained Cherise Cota, who’s in her second season at the school along with her husband, Heath, and children Reagan, Cameron and Tristan. “It smelled good, like lotion. Of course it did because it ended up being lanolin. Before, I never knew lanolin came from sheep.”
Students credit their growing farm knowledge to Heidi and Kirk, who are always accessible for problem-solving.
“You can call them any time of the day with questions. They actually care, which is a rare quality,” said Stephanie.
Fall on the farm features a bountiful pumpkin patch planted by students. During this time, the school teaches food preparation and storage. These “field-to-freezer” techniques—which include harvesting and storing corn, along with drying and canning the fall harvest—are designed to allow participants to enjoy homegrown produce throughout the year.
“I had never done any canning before taking this course,” said Cota. “But last season’s abundant tomato and zucchini yield required some preservation… I dehydrated zucchini, canned tomatoes, harvested and preserved peppers. This was the biggest lifestyle change for my family.”
And it’s transformative experiences like this that bring satisfaction to Kirk and Heidi Tubbs.
“It’s fun to see somebody who has never grown anything before come and plant a simple pumpkin seed,” said Heidi. “Then they return and say, ‘Hey, I grew that!’”