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
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!