Junior’s love of nature sparks a passion for agriculture

As students mosey by the farm on their way to P.E., perhaps not paying it any attention, junior Tommy Freiburger passionately tends to the garden, just as he has for the past two years.

Freiburger joined the Sustainable Agriculture class his sophomore year because he wanted to be involved in a class that was outside where he could interact with nature. This sparked a newfound love for the outdoors.

Freiburger - in his element - trudges through the Redwood farm

Junior Tommy Freiburger trudges through the Redwood farm

The goal of implementing the Sustainable Agriculture class into Redwood’s curriculum was to create an outdoor classroom that makes students aware of the food they’re eating. Sustainable Agriculture teacher Joe Stewart translates his love of agriculture and farming through a unique teaching style.

“Just like students like to learn in a different way, I like to teach in a different way,” Stewart said.

This hands-on teaching style that Stewart embraced, with the creation of the class in 1997, has attracted students who enjoy the outdoors, Freiburger serving as an example. Stewart has created a balance between agricultural knowledge and fun in his outdoor classroom.

“We eat food three times a day, and it’s important to look at where it’s coming from. The environment is to be considered as well as our nutrition and health. The fact is that [sustainable agriculture] is a fun thing to be spending your time doing, as opposed to reading about it in a classroom,” Stewart said.

Shortly after joining the class, Freiburger decided to get a job at the Bayside Garden Center in downtown Tiburon to further pursue his interest.

“I like working with the plants, but you’re not involved in the lifecycle of a plant or the cycles of nature like you are in agriculture class, but it’s nice being around plants,” Freiburger said.

Senior Isabella Karman, who takes Sustainable Agriculture with Freiburger, enjoys the non-lecture-based approach Stewart has created.

“It’s the only class where I’m not just sitting in a chair all day and listening to a lecture. He does the work before we do it, instead of making us read a book or something, so he’s leading by example which is awesome,” Karmen said.

Freiburger diligently inspects a tomato plant

Freiburger diligently inspects a tomato plant

Karman has voiced her commitment to pursuing either a major or minor in environmental studies in college, due to the influence of APES and the sustainable agriculture class.

Similarly, Freiburger has expressed his fascination in majoring in agriculture when he attends college in one year.

“I like being outside and interacting with nature because we are all a part of it; all human beings are a part of it. Everything we do is nature, because we are all organisms. When you interact with nature it’s like interacting with yourself in a way, a part of yourself that you don’t know a lot about,” Freiburger said.

Both Karman and Freiburger are grateful for the opportunities that Redwood and Marin have provided for them in this field, with specialized programs as well as natural resources.

“I don’t think there are any other schools that I could’ve gone to that would have this type of program. I’m lucky that I live where I do so that I could go to Redwood,” Freiburger said.

Stewart’s goal as teacher is not only to keep students aware of the food they are eating, but also to take this knowledge beyond the classroom and make use of it.

“I hope that they become lifelong learners and have awareness about what it means to be sustainable around food choices,” Stewart said.

Stewart’s farm has gained appeal and created opportunity for Redwood students like Freiburger and Karmen.

“Agriculture gave my interests direction. I always liked nature and being out in it, but I never did anything with it until now,” Freiburger said.

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