(Above) Sara Carley-Peña describes her two Nigerian Dwarf goats as “happiness wrapped in fur.”
Sara Carley-Peña explained that she was a frequent visitor to Green Gate Farm, just outside of Shepherdstown, on field trips with her students. In early 2021, when she heard the Prillaman family had plans to sell the farm and move to New Hampshire, Carley-Peña reached out to express an interest. “It really fell together,” she said, “there was an immediate connection. The Prillamans had really invested a lot to build up the farm over the past ten years and they were looking for someone who would be a steward for the land. When we closed on the deal, I admit I felt a little intimidated. I had a big vision that I could continue producing natural and organic products, but didn’t have a specific plan for the 18 acres and multiple buildings.”
“I’ve been a social worker and a teacher — I’ve run outreach programs for runaway kids,” explains Carley-Peña. “My focus has been on helping pre-teens and my teaching experience has been in earth science, environment, and nutrition. Somehow I figured I could use a working farm as a base for creative education. This April I am planning to start ‘Fridays on the Farm’ — a program that will engage middle school age kids in planning, planting and animal care. We’ll have guest speakers too. It’s about building a love of nature and an understanding of nutrition. When you can grow the vegetables and take them home, it helps kids to think and understand what they eat.”
The Earth n’ Root program will continue at the farm and Sara Carley-Peña sees many opportunities for community engagement.
“Fortunately, I’m not doing this all myself,” she continued. “Jen Haas has been running the Earth n’ Root nature program for preschool kids on the farm for several years and will be continuing. Samantha Savoca will be leasing the greenhouse to grow hemp for Meditative Medicinals, her CBD shop in Shepherdstown. Most importantly, Jaz Rondini will be managing the agriculture operations of the farm. I expect that we’ll be running a kitchen garden, pumpkin patch, and of course, we’ll be growing hay for my two miniature horses, Button & Barca, and two Nigerian Dwarf goats, Cookie & Cream. All of us have a lot of ideas and we’ll be exploring what we can do in the next several years to make this place sustainable, both agriculturally and financially.”Staff Contributor