Happy Kids, Goat Cheese, and a Dead Chicken
Just when it seemed that our Chilean adventure could not get any better, it did. This morning we visited an organic farm and agricultural school, Fundacion Origen. This trade school serves children age 14-18 in its vicinity, who come mostly from lower income families, and teaches them agricultural skills. Most, if not all, of these children will not have an opportunity to attend college, so learning farming is important to their future.
Our lovely guide Gail Phillips, who has only worked for the foundation for a month, showed us the farm operation. The children at the school learn how to grow vegetables and herbs, such as pumpkins, bell peppers, oregano, and mint. We had the pleasure of smelling many samples of the farm’s herbs on our pleasant morning walk!
The children learn to raise and take care of animals, like goats, chickens, and horses. We enjoyed feeding the white swiss goats that were eager to take our hay. After the goats are born, they are kept with the mothers—an untraditional practice in Chile. This practice, however, increases milk output and prevents the onset of disease and sickness. The goat milk is used to make delicious goat cheese which we sampled at lunch this afternoon.
After viewing the goats, we headed over to the chicken coup. Interestingly, some of their chickens lay green and blue eggs, kind of like Easter eggs! We held some adorable, two-week old chicks, and then headed to the incubator to view the youngest chicks. These chicks were tiny and cute, very unlike what we saw next to them. Much to our surprise, a fully grown dead chicken was on the countertop by the incubator. Talk about full life cycle! We don’t know why or how this chicken died, but that’s okay, because we would rather forget about it.
One dead chicken later, we walked through the rest of the farm and past the hotel. The hotel, chicken eggs, vegetables and goat cheese are all sources of revenue for the non-profit foundation that supports the school. Seventy percent of the school is funded by the Chilean government, while the other thirty percent comes directly from the foundation.
The best part of this visit was the Chilean kids. It just so happened that our visit coincided with the once a year “Student’s Day.” The students dressed like the wanted (some outfits were clearly inspired by Lady Gaga), blasted their music over the speakers, and competed in silly games. The energy, happiness, and enthusiasm of these children were absolutely incredible. They asked us to dance with them in a traditional Chilean movement, and even though we weren’t that good, we still had fun!
Our attempts to start a massive dance party to their awesome jams were somewhat unsuccessful, but the kids had a good laugh at our American dance moves. These children treated us like celebrities, telling us hello, taking pictures, and even asking for some autographs. It’s hard to put into words, but the spirit at Fundacion Origen was incredibly lively and the students brought big smiles to all of our faces.
After playing with the students, we had lunch at the hotel restaurant, which was absolutely delicious. We have become pretty accustomed to eating like kings! Eating like poor college students when we get back to the states will be a fairly difficult transition.
Our experience this morning was amazing—the visit to Fundacion Origen was our favorite of the trip. Some of us plan to donate to the foundation, which receives most of its funding through American support. If we’re lucky, we may visit the farm—our favorite place in Chile—sometime in the future.