Farm-based high school offers alternative for students

Published: Aug. 15, 2016 at 4:53 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2016 at 6:08 PM EDT
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GOOCHLAND, VA (WWBT) - A new farm-based high school is a year away from opening in Central Virginia, but students are already signing up to attend.

Local Stew U, otherwise known as Land & Ocean Conservation In Agricultural Lifestyles for a Sustainable, Traceable, & Environmentally Wise Universe
is expected to open in the fall 2017. It's a school that prides itself on harnessing a hands-on approach to education in a more holistic way that ties concepts directly to projects.

The school will be for students from eighth through 12th grade and will be on a farm in Goochland with a site to be determined.  (site is yet to be determined, although a location has been picked out.)
Resi Connell, founder of the high school, says she is starting it based on feedback on programs she hosts at her current farm. She also wants to provide students a more meaningful learning experience.

"(The students) will be developing the product and seeing it all the way through the research, the growing, the producing, the delivery," Connell said.

Connell said a typical day will begin with a walk around the farm to see if anything happened overnight. The day would start around 9 a.m. and go until 5 p.m. Teachers will be more like guides and students wouldn't sit all day at a desk.

"With the agriculture programs the kids are learning critical thinking problem solving skills," Connell said. "There are always problems on the farm, right?"

Connell said students will be able to do research about projects they are interested in completing. There will be around 30 total students and they will be
split into groups depending on what project they are working on.

Sandy Miller is a mother who plans to send her daughter to the school and a teacher who will work at the school once it opens.

"I think the farm aspect is something totally different and it's not in the Richmond area so people will be drawn to," Miller said. "Say they want to make and market soap … so we'll figure out what do we have on the farm to do that? We have goats so we can take the milk from the goats, take the milk turn it into soap and sell it in the farm front."

Connell says through the projects on the farm students will learn math, science, chemistry and even social studies and government.

"They'll be figuring out a bill that's important to the farming industry," Connell said. "And they will go to Richmond sit in committee and see how that process works."

Chris McPherson of Piedmont Steakhouse will be teaching a culinary class. He was also the first to donate to the school to get it up and running.

"I'm going to help them design a culinary program," said McPherson, who donated kitchen appliances. "I think the parents will be more excited knowing not only learning how to raise a crop but they'll learn how to pick produce and feed their families."

There will also be classes in mechanics, welding and carpentry.

The school is expected to open in the fall of 2017. They are searching for private financing to acquire property in Goochland.

If you are interested in donating, participating, being a student at the school or teacher, contact Resi Connell at or at
The school is also working to find a nonprofit to partner with to offer scholarships to students. They plan to accept around 30 children from all around and outside of the region. Tuition will be $14,500.

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