Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gallery Space: Finding History in Unexpected Places


     History resides in unexpected places.  Staff and youth at Foote Brook House, Laraway's micro residential program in Johnson, understand this.  They organized an art and photography show featuring scenes from cemeteries and cemetery-themed art.
     Images from rural Vermont cemeteries appear beside those from the National Historic Park at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.  There's even a hand-drawn image of that Master of  Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe.
     A youth in the program put pencil to paper, creating a fascinating depiction of a gravestone of a former Mason whose surname was Butler.  Asking the youth about his work prompted the question, "Which hand is your 'masterpiece' hand?"
     This query caused the youth to pause as a clarifying question was asked:  "Which hand do you create art with?"
     "My right hand," he said as he smiled.
     This prompted an informal discussion among this youth and others about each's masterpiece hand and what they create with it.  The Righties outweighed the Lefties.  The expressions of creativity spanned painting, drawing, photography and even textile crafts.
     The exhibit it up thru September 7th in Laraway's Gallery Space.  Private viewings can be arranged by contacting Katherine Stamper, KatherineS@Laraway,org or (802) 635-2805 x 106.

Photo Credit:  Stephen Dick

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Bridge to Somewhere: Yestermorrow at Laraway


     Laraway's playground has a new addition to greet our students when they return to campus from summer vacation:  a beautiful footbridge donated to Laraway via a special partnership with the Yestermorrow Design and Build School in Warren, Vermont.  
     Yestermorrow, founded in 1980, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose stated mission is to inspire people to, "...create a better, more sustainable world by providing hands-on education that integrates design and craft as a creative, interactive process."
     Cornelius Murphy, Laraway's Land Steward, intentionally sought out this partnership given our agencies' shared commitment to providing non-traditional hands-on learning. The footbridge, built by a Yestermorrow class, serves as a lovely and welcoming gateway to our playground. It passes over a small drainage area full of wildflowers.  The bridge's built-in bench invites one to sit down for a rest while taking in expansive views across our property.  Thank you, Yestermorrow!
     For more information on Yestermorrow, please visit

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kids Need to Summer, Too

Note:  This article appeared in the August 11, 2015 edition of the News & Citizen:

     “I love my job because it gives me the room to be creative,” said Lisa Rock, Food Service Coordinator at Laraway Youth & Family Services in Johnson. “I like being able to offer students fresh food, made from scratch---a good meatloaf, a fresh garden salad.”
     There is a much more practical side to Rock’s creative feats in Laraway School’s kitchen:  over ninety percent of the children and youth served by the agency qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch, per federal guidelines. That is a lot of children to feed during the summer and school year.
     Located on a thirty-nine acre farmstead, Laraway staff and students cultivate gardens that produce vegetables, herbs and fruits for use in the cafeteria.
     “I have fresh parsley that is beautiful,” Rock said. “It was just picked today.” She harvests from her kitchen garden daily throughout the growing season, adding fresh basil, oregano and dill to meals.
     Beets are growing particularly well this summer with varieties including Bull’s Blood, the Italian heirloom Di Chioggia, and in a seeming nod to Laraway’s Michigan-born Executive Director, the Detroit Dark Red. Mesclun greens land on lunch plates while garlic scapes are transformed into creamy pesto for pasta.
     “I like being able to introduce kids to foods they may not have had before,” Rock said.  Quiche and jicama fall into this category.
     Engaging youth in the growing of the food served in the cafeteria is a great way to teach about self-sufficiency and healthy eating while cultivating broad palettes. Students are also learning about canning, capturing summer’s flavor for another time.
     Hunger Free Vermont states on their website that thirteen percent of all Vermont households are food insecure. Nineteen percent of Vermont children live in food insecure homes. Statistics are even more troubling for Lamoille County where an estimated one in four children experiences food insecurity.
     To counter this reality, Hunger Free Vermont supports summer food sites across Vermont, providing children in vulnerable food situations access to free, quality meals. For a listing of food sites in Vermont, visit For more information on Laraway, visit   


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sprout and About: Breath mint anyone?

Laraway is now the perfect destination in case of a Vampire apocalypse. Students from our School and Backpack programs harvested over 400 bulbs from the garden during week 4 of summer program. While the garlic scapes were a treat themselves, they were only a preview to the possibilities of the garlic bulb. 
Garlic may be well known for its ability to fend off Dracula, but it has actually been used medicinally and spiritually for thousands of years. In many cultures it was considered an apotropaic symbol meant to deter evil spirits, and was displayed in windows, doors, or as part of shrines. Besides being known for its strong presence (it’s also known to ward off deer, insects and a variety of pests as well), garlic has been associated with having a variety of biological effects (besides terrible breath). Garlic is high in nutrients & antioxidants but low in calories and is known to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, help fight off Alzheimer’s disease, improve cholesterol levels and remove heavy metals from the body. It was even used during the World Wars as an antiseptic!
While we won’t be using the Laraway Garden garlic on any open wounds, it will find many different uses. Most of the garlic is being cured in preparation for future kitchen use while roughly 135 bulbs will be used as seeds for next season and to hand out at the recognition ceremonies for Backpack and School, marking the end of our summer program. Slightly immature and damaged bulbs have also been put aside for pickling for storage next to the green beans and scapes. We can tell you how they come out in a couple weeks, but you may want to listen from a few feet away. 

Submitted by Hannah Bober, VYDC AmeriCorps State member