Runnymede School for Boys incorporates farming into the curriculum

“Kids need to learn about farming and animals. They need to touch the dirt. There are so many lessons to be learned and so many kids are missing these lessons,” said Bob Brandon, director of Runnymede School for Boys and Runnymede Farm.
It all started in 1998 when Bob and Susan Brandon moved to Missouri.
Bob was a teacher and a coach at a school in California. A friend of Bob’s, Aaron Boldman, had taken a job at Shelterwood, a boarding school, in Branson, Mo. That’s when Bob and his family flew out to Branson for a visit. “We thought the school and Missouri were great. We loved the Christian Ministry. So I took a job at the boarding school,” said Bob.
At the same time Bob and Susan began farming. Their farm started with a garden and a milk cow, named Sara. “Sara kind of trained us,” explained Bob. “Then came pastured poultry. We started selling chickens, eggs, turkeys and milk all on 3 acres. We had no pasture so we bought hay and used the neighbor’s land.”
As the Brandons became more involved in farming the need for more farmland increased. The idea was to expand the farm and start an all boys’ boarding school with a curriculum that incorporated farming.
In 2005 they found the perfect spot for both their farm and boys’ school in Walnut Grove, Mo.
As the Brandons got situated on their new farm they purchased beef cattle, chickens and started a garden. Then they started construction for their boys’ school, Runnymede School for Boys.
“We started building the cabin with the help from our son, Shea, with the idea of starting the school with four boys. That was the dream and vision but we wanted to do so without debt. So, we sent out donation letters to people we knew. We received a $5,000 donation and that was our confirmation we were on the right track,” shared Susan.
It took the Brandons almost two years to complete the project and in 2010 they had their first student enroll in Runnymede. By 2012 their program had outgrown their facilities and a new building was built to accommodate additional students and mentors. Today, the Runnymede School for Boys has eight students and four mentors, Ben, Tyler, Luke and Shea.
The program at Runnymede is designed on a level system; each student must complete all five objective-based levels before graduating. In addition to the daily classroom curriculum, the boys learn important lessons from the farm.
“It is important to know where your food comes from. All good life lessons come from the farm. We pull from this all the time and incorporate it with the Bible,” explained Bob.
All the students have farm chores and these chores are considered to be a privilege. “We take it very seriously. We want the boys to want to help on the farm,” added Bob.
The Runnymede Farm includes beef cattle, a dairy cow, layers, pastured poultry, turkeys, pigs and a garden. The students in one-way or another manage every sector on the farm.
Runnymede Farm currently has 22 head of cattle that are rotationally grazed. When it is time to move the cattle to a fresh paddock all the boys are involved allowing each of them to learn how to deal with the herd.
The farm’s milk cow is milked once a day. This is the first farm chore boys joining the program learn. Two boys are assigned to the dairy portion. They are responsible for milking, bottling and refrigerating the milk, cleaning the stalls and feeding the cow. The veteran boys then train the new boys.
Runnymede Farm has 40-50 hens. The hens are kept in electrified netting, which is moved around the farm by the boys. The boys are also responsible for collecting the eggs.
Pastured poultry is a big part of the program for the boys. They raise several hundred birds each year. The boys learn how to care for the chickens from day one until slaughter. They move the pens every day, feed them and help with slaughter. Turkeys are raised on the farm every other year.
Pigs are also raised on the farm and are cared for by the boys.
Runnymede has two raised bed gardens. Each boy has a 4’x4’ plot that they care for and are allowed to plant whatever they choose. They also have a much larger garden where the boys’ plant and harvest things like squash and tomatoes. In addition to the gardens, Bob and the boys planted a quarter-acre plot of wheat this year that they will harvest by hand.
“We grow all the food we need right here on the farm with the help of the students and our own children,” stated Susan.
Bob and Susan have eight children that are all involved with Runnymede School for Boys on some level. Kailey, 22; Shea, 20; Emma, 16; Faith, 15; Mary, 13; Jed, 12; Lael, 10 and Claire, 7, have all been very instrumental in the success of the family setting that is unique to Runnymede School for Boys.
“It takes a lot of work but our little system works,” Susan concluded.


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