Jan 13

Land Group V part 2

Continued from the January 29th blog.

The word began to spread about Learning Tree’s activities. More and more benefactors became involved and pitched in to put up fences, help acquire animals and continue to make the site safer and more attractive. These benefactors recommended that a 20-year lease be written so that Learning Tree Project could go on without interruption or fear of having the land sold prematurely. Although we had no fear that Land Group V would let us down, it seemed to please everyone to know that we had a 20-year lease.

As twenty years began to come close to the horizon, Learning Tree had grown to serving about 4,000 students annually. By this time, it had received tremendous community support and was becoming increasingly well known in the Dayton - Miami Valley area. At this point, Directors of local Foundations met with us to insist that, for continued foundation support, as well as other local support, the property must be transferred to the Learning Tree. It could no longer be held in private ownership if we hoped to continue to get funding

By 1989, Land Group V had paid off the mortgage, but still held a loan, taken out to pay the real estate taxes. The venture had never proved to be a “for profit” experience for any of the owners. Fred Bartenstein, then director of the Dayton Foundation, suggested that perhaps the owners would be willing to consider contributing their shares of ownership to the Learning Tree under the following conditions:

1) If Learning Tree would offer to raise funds to pay off the remaining loan
2) If Learning Tree would find a lawyer to advise and prepare a document stating that
the gift of their shares to this 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) non-profit organization be recognized as tax deductible.

In a meeting at the farmhouse, August, 1989, (punctuated by elderberry pie and coffee,) the members of Land Group V met with Roger Bloomfield. He is the lawyer who discussed with them the possibility of donating their shares of ownership to the Learning Tree Project in return for a tax break and the payment of their loan. All but one of the members of Land Group V agreed to do so. Bill Davidson, who lived in Texas, declined to donate his shares. Learning Tree is grateful, however, for the years that he let us use his money interest free. Learning Tree then, had to assume the responsibility of raising $27,000.00, to pay off the Land Group V loan and to pay back the amount of the shares owned by Bill Davidson.

Local foundations came to the rescue. The Mead Foundation was willing to put up $12,000.00 if other foundations would contribute a match. The Dayton Foundation, the Iddings Foundation and the Frank M Tait Foundation each put up $5,000.00. On October 14, 1989, there was an Enffeofment Ceremony at the farm whereby members of Land Group V transferred ownership of the property to the members of the Board of Trustees of Learning Tree Project. As in the days of old in England, before there were written records, former owners gave to the new owners a clod of the soil and a branch from a tree that grew on the land in question. That, in itself, is a story for another day.

Dec 29

Land Group V

How did Learning Tree Farm grow from a regular family farm?

Land Group V was originally comprised of eight people who formed a partnership in order to purchase a 55 acre farm as a long term real estate investment. They bought it in response to a request from four teachers who wanted to start an outdoor education center and needed to rent a farm. The investors included the following men:

Dr Thomas E. Kernan, DDS
Joseph A. Keyes
Dr Richard Lieberman, DDS
Dr Kenneth Manifold, DDS
Dr Gary Igleburger, DDS
John R. Kernan
Frank Krug
Bill Davidson

These gentlemen agreed to buy a farm as a long term investment for themselves. They agreed to rent it to the teachers for a minimal $200.00 per month. The farm would then be used by the teachers as a “classroom without walls” with the mission to “facilitate hands on learning in a traditional farm setting.” With the help of their lawyer, Patrick Foley, the investors became incorporated as a for profit partnership named Land Group V. The teachers became incorporated as a non-profit organization, “The Learning Tree Project, Inc” and received their 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) status with the IRS through the help of their pro bono lawyers, Gerry Turner and Emerson Keck. These transactions took place in April and May, 1973. The 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) status was granted in November, 1973.

Immediately, the investors set to work to help make the farmstead livable. A new roof was installed on the farmhouse. Truckloads of trash were hauled away. A rat-infested shed filled with trash was cleaned out and burned down. (We found out that the shed was originally the maple-sugaring shack, which had later been used by renters as a trash disposal site.) Land Group V members did carpentry, plumbing and electrical work inside the house. They laid floor tiles, donated an old farm truck, helped find furniture and after the first winter, installed new windows.

The four teachers, Jean Ryan, Sally Keyes, Mary Jane Zinck and Judy Hoferkamp moved into the farmhouse in June of 1973 and began having groups out immediately. Members of “The Detached Worker Program” brought out many of the first children who came to the farm that summer. (This was one of the projects of the “Model Cities Program” for which Dayton received federal funding in the early ‘70’s.) In September, after school started, students from St. Agnes School, Holy Family School and Huffman School participated (sometimes for six or eight days in succession) in the hands on programs that Learning Tree offered. That first partial school year Learning Tree served about 200 children.

Stay tuned for more about our educational farm's history!

Dec 22

Pioneer History at Learning Tree Farm part 2

Continued from the previous blog.

Forty-two years ago a different kind of "pioneer" come to the farm.

After only two other owners, Learning Tree Farm was founded on 55 of the original 106 acres in 1973.   Family and friends of Jean Ryan and Sally Keyes formed a Partnership, Land Group V, to buy the land as a real estate investment, which would enable them to lease the 55 acres to Learning Tree Project, Inc. The two groups signed a 20-year lease. Later, on October 14, 1989, an Enffeofment Ceremony was held as the members of Land Group V, Dr Thomas E. Kernan, DDS, Joseph A. Keyes, Dr Richard Lieberman, DDS, Dr Kenneth Manifold, DDS, Dr Gary Igleburger, DDS, John R. Kernan, and Frank Krug donated their shares of the land to the Board of Trustees of the Learning Tree Project. After the land was secured, the Learning Tree Project also became known as Learning Tree Farm.

"Century House" (1829-1929) was opened to the public in April, 1996 with a special exhibit called "The First Hundred Years" made possible by a grant from Culture Works/ Montgomery County Regional Arts and Cultural District and the loan of artifacts and documents belonging to cousins of the original family.

In May of 1998, an adjacent 5 acres of the original 106 acres was added to the Learning Tree Farm through a gift from Gladys Turner, Joel Davis, Terry Meehan, the Allyn Foundation and the Kuntz Foundation.


The exterior of the house has been repaired, painted and the porch has been rebuilt. The dining room has been papered with wallpaper appropriate to the period, the floor painted, an area rug in place, and three plate racks on the walls. The kitchen has been painted, the cooking fireplace and hearth has been reopened (and found to be in excellent condition), a log mantelpiece has been installed over the hearth and a large reproduction of an antique "Jelly Cabinet" has been donated. Funds for the renovation were limited and most of the work has been done by volunteers, members of the "Century House Committee", chaired by Board Member, Joel O. Davis.

You can visit the farm any day to get a better understanding of the enormity of the investment and gift to our community these people and organizations have made.  Stay tuned for more details in this intriguing story!

Dec 15

Pioneer History at Learning Tree Farm

As we enter the winter season we reflect on the past both recent and of the farm's beginnings.  We thought that you might like a glimpse into how this little plot of earth in southwest Ohio has transformed over the years.  The next several blog posts are pieces that were written to record Learning Tree Farm's long history.  Enjoy this first in the series that tells of the beginning of the property in the 1800s.  




The property that is now Learning Tree Farm was settled in 1829 when John Funderburg and his wife Margaret (Shank) Funderburg brought their two children, Jacob and Anna and Margaret's niece, Lydia Shank, in a covered wagon from Frederick County Maryland. They were of German ancestry and belonged to the Church of the Brethren.

Previously, on December 5, 1827, John and Margaret Funderburg had received a letter from Margaret’s brother, John Shank and her nephew, Abraham Shank. At that time, John and Margaret Funderburg lived in Frederick County, Maryland, “near Samuel DeVelbiss’ Mill on the banks of the Monocacy” River. The Shanks had already migrated by covered wagon to Dayton, Ohio and apparently were very happy with their move westward. They wrote the letter from Dayton on October 29, 1827. John tells his sister that his family is living “like a king among the bees”. They had been searching every wagon that came to Dayton, hoping it was John’s, but now they have given them up “for this fall’s coming.”* That was the fall of 1827. Their letter must have convinced John and Margaret to bring their family and come on out. John had a big public sale of his property in Maryland on August 28, 1828.*

Then, on August 29, 1829, John purchased 106 acres from Phillip and Susanna Gebhart. (Phillip had purchased it for $1.00 from his father, Henry Gebhart who received it as a land grant from the U. S. Government in 1810.)*** John paid $1,000 down with the agreement that he would pay $400 more within two months when a "good sufficient deed was established". * In 1853, after John and Margaret died, the farm passed to their daughter, Anna Funderburg Huffer, according to the provisions in John Funderburg’s last Will and Testament.** The Funderburg/Huffer Family established a subsistence farming operation here which passed down through the family for over one hundred years.

You can learn more about the farm's land and family history when you visit the Century House at any of our programs.  Check out the family's ancestry here!

Aug 28

How Tall IS That Cow?

We share our beautiful farm with hundreds of children each season.  There are countless learning moments that happen because of authentic curiosity as we discover things using hands-on learning.  One moment that I had at a recent Little Red Hen event last month exemplified our process.

As we were interacting with the various animals, we stopped to visit Molly and Ginny our bovine ladies.  There are several facts that we share when there is a quiet moment and then… we pause… and LISTEN to the child.  Given this time, a young man piped up as he gazed at their gentle massive forms and asked, “How tall IS that cow?”

The possibilities that abound when a child asks this question are almost endless:

  • Estimation
  • Using non-standard measurement
  • Comparing two objects-I am 5 ft.  Is the cow taller than me or shorter than me?
  • Greater than and less than
  • Measurement of a horse in hands
  • Counting
  • Are different breeds of cows bigger or smaller?
  • Does their food effect their growth?
  • Are they full grown at 18 months?
  • THEN we can look at that cow in comparison to the other animals and objects on the farm.  You can begin to look at the entire farm as a math and measurement lesson!

But this is what goes on in MY head.  During some new upcoming programming like our Discovery Class, we’ll be able to follow up on more of these child-led discoveries. 

For this four year old we stick to a comparison and non-standard measurement.  He remains quiet after our conversation gazing up again at Molly and Ginny.  I wait and watch and know that he is making a friend and later when he learns about measurement in a classroom setting he will have a concrete example to think back upon and maybe even come back to see our cows again one day and check their growth.

lookingatcow     danelleandcow 

Danelle, one of our educators, helping us get close so we can measure.

-Meredith Florkey

Education Director at Learning Tree Farm

Apr 3


Farming and Education both rely on faith. We must trust the process. We trust that when we plant a seed in the spring it will grow and allow us a good harvest. We trust that by giving children our undivided attention, plenty of time and materials they will learn. Farmers and teachers have to be optimists.

Learning Tree Farm was founded on faith. Faith by a few educators that if children were given wide open spaces, access to nature and animals and people they could count on, those children would grow, learn, and become confident individuals. Forty-two years later those visitors come back and share their stories with us. The memories and lessons learned have stayed with these members of our community and are being passed down to a new generation.

Learning Tree Farm has faith in its new crop this year. Sunflowers will grace our center field as a backdrop to all that goes on in late spring and summer. Sunflowers are more pollinator friendly and less fertilizer intense than the traditional crops of soybeans and corn. It is our hope that in addition to enjoying their beauty, we will be supporters of all of the pollinators that ensure the success of our garden and orchard each year.

Success is not achieved by faith alone though. Hard work and preparation are what allow farmers and educators to be sure that the crops will grow and the children will thrive. The staff at Learning Tree Farm has worked hard to provide several opportunities for our friends to show their support this spring. Our ongoing 2015 Sunflower Campaign will allow patrons to purchase sunflower kits, plant them at home and measure their growth as compared to our own sunflower field via social media.  This capital campaign will support our efforts to refurbish the back patio of the Century House.

Check out all that Learning Tree Farm has to offer this spring! We have faith that you’ll love what you find!

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