Learning nature

Lincoln Geiger stands with the flock of sheep at Gaia Village Educational Farm. One of the sheep in the background is Springer, who was found wandering along Main Street and eventually was taken to the farm when her owner couldn’t be located. Photo by Jessie Salisbury

WILTON – Two years ago, Lincoln Geiger decided it was time to retire from the Temple-Wilton Community Farm, where he has been dairy manager for about 30 years, and move on to what he had long wanted to do: create an educational facility to bring children into the natural world and learn about farming.

“Little by little,” he said. “I’m supposed to be retired, but I’m still farming a little, and haying was a little late this year” because of weather, “so I’ve been helping them out.”

What Geiger is creating is Gaia Village, part of Gaia Educational Institute, located on Badger Farm Road. It’s around the corner from, but attached to, the community farm, which has been at Four-Corners Farm since the 1990s and is one of the oldest community-assisted facilities in the country.

On a recent Thursday, a group of children, plus two librarians from the town’s library, were at the site to feed the baby goats, pet the sheep, visit the farm’s new litter of kittens, cook some lunch over an open fire and walk through the woods.

“We’ve started a garden,” Geiger said, pointing out the neat rows.

Gaia includes a summer day camp offering exposure to farm animals, gardening, outdoor cooking and wilderness survival, including fire building and shelter construction.

“We cook and eat together,” he said. “We do all kinds of things with the animals, including milking a cow, feed and clean them, and lots of time to play. Kids like to walk in the woods.”

Geiger is looking to expand the offerings. But to do that, he needs more volunteers. There are currently only a few.

A new barn is under construction, designed by post-and-beam contractor Phil Brooks, of Lyndeborough, who is connected with nearby High Mowing School. The school is one of the beneficiaries of the Community Farm’s produce.

“A teaching barn,” Geiger said. “It’ll have a wood shop, crafts and a little blacksmithing.”

Fundraising is currently going on to finish the driveway and parking area, now not much more than a rutted path through a field.

“We need a perimeter fence so we can let the animals loose,” Geiger said, but that’s in the future. Sheep and goats are now in smaller fenced pastures.

Camp is currently offered for ages 5-14, with six to 10 campers in each two-week session.

“But drop-ins are always welcome,” he said.

For more information on the day camp and other programs, visit GaiaInstitute.org.