Jaclyn and Kenny Jenkins fulfilled their greatest dream two years ago with the purchase of One Day Farm in Hamilton. The 13-acre property featuring a late 18th-century house was in need of some tender loving care but the Jenkins felt up to the challenge.
"We thought we're young, we can do this," said Jaclyn Jenkins. "My husband and I are high school sweethearts and it was always 'one day we will go to college, one day we will get married and have kids' and the last 'one day' was we will have a farm."
As "legacy Loudouners" the Jenkins felt right at home making renovations to the property so they can raise their three children in the same rural environment they enjoyed as youngsters. With a large garden and farm animals including a cow, mini pony and a sizable flock of chickens, friends and family began inquiring about bringing their own children out for a visit. The Jenkins were happy to oblige.
"Every day my kids come and collect eggs with me and help me in the garden and my friends and co-works started to ask if they could bring their families out," said Jaclyn Jenkins. "They moved to Loudoun to experience that, but still don't have these resource."
With the goal of turning the property into a business, the Jenkins went through several iterations of ideas including a hard cidery. While they decided against working in the liqueur industry, they still planted a large apple orchard in a backfield. Eventually, they circled back to how they could enjoy their farm with their children and the idea of farm education blossomed.
"We thought what if we did a farm school where these kids could come to us year round and see the process from beginning to end," said Jaclyn Jenkins. "It will be 100 percent farm education."
Jenkins has spent the last nine months creating a curriculum with her cousin who has been brought on as a teacher, that merges farming and kindergarten prep. One Day Farm will open its doors Aug. 29. Ten children, ages 2 to 5, have already enrolled.
"Instead of doing it on paper, we are going outside and asking them to find the green beans and the red tomato and the purple eggplant to learn their colors," said Jenkins. "And have them count what they picked to learn numbers."
One Day Farm will grow 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables each year. Students will take a portion home every day. The rest will be sold in a CSA that Jenkins has arranged with her former employer and close friend, Great Country Farms in Bluemont.
"It's also not just teaching the kids, it's teaching the whole family," said Jenkins. "When I first sent my kids to school they provided lunches and I was not impressed. I've requested that the parents provide their own lunches because we are sending you home with all this produce and I want you to send it back so the whole family is learning to eat healthy. I give them all sorts of recipes with the things we send home."
In addition to the garden, the Jenkins home features a barn, chicken coop and active pond full of tadpoles to watch grow into frogs. There is also an interactive classroom for inclement weather.
Teaching children about where food comes from and challenging their muscles and minds like the Jenkins have done for their own kids is what One Day Farm wants to achieve.
"I would love to say my kids always eat fruits and vegetables but they are just kids and my son hated spinach,' said Jenkins. "But when he physically grew his own spinach and harvested it, he ate it every meal. Because it's his and mom isn't forcing him to eat food. He says he loves it."
While Jenkins can't promise every child will have that reaction to every vegetable, their constant exploration will hopefully widen these little farmers' horizons. Overall, it's very much a "dirt don't hurt" philosophy.
Other activities include a monthly study rotation of animals. September will be about One Day Farm's mini pony, Dolly Parton. Students will participate in her daily care and watch the farrier come trim her feet. Other animals to be featured will be the farm cow, Patsy, and several goats and sheep.
"The first week of school I need to go and clip the chickens' wings so the kids will get to watch this happen and maybe use their scissor skills to cut a feather," said Jenkins. "Once again using scissors is part of the curriculum of preschool but we are using those skills outside."
While this first year is just getting underway, the Jenkins have already planned a log cabin addition onto their home to expand their classroom space and a greenhouse to begin their garden earlier in the spring. There is also a possible larger, second location to open in the Ashburn area.
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