The Middleburg Montessori Hog Operation is entirely student-run; middle schoolers aged 13 -16 provide daily care for the pigs, manage their breeding program, market the meat to restaurants, make deliveries, balance the checkbook, and maintain accurate records on finances and animal health. With Middleburg Montessori School (MMS) closing its physical campus and their restaurant sales declining steeply due to the recent pandemic, the students had to adjust. They created a plan for curbside pickup and delivery and put their entire inventory into an online shop.
“The Montessori method has prepared these students exceptionally well to pivot their business like this,” said Middle School teacher Louise Searle. “They are remarkably flexible, resilient, and capable adolescents, and daily work on the farm has given them lots of great practice with practical problem-solving skills. Farm education is part of Montessori for adolescents because, in tandem with the rest of our curriculum, it provides many opportunities for the students to be critical thinkers and to participate in the world.”
The student farm is unique in that it is not a one-time project, where students raise and then sell animals over a season or school year. It is an ongoing agricultural business, with routine sales to local restaurants and businesses such as Field and Main and the Whole Ox. It is also unique that students raise the piglets from farrow (birth) to finish. Many local farms buy piglets to raise because farrowing can be challenging. Still, MMS persists because the educational experience and agricultural management that goes into breeding and farrowing is invaluable for students. The farm currently has ten breeding pigs of four different breeds.
The hog operation is an important component of the MMS middle school curriculum. “Quality Montessori education always considers the developmental needs of the child. The hog operation allows MMS to meet adolescents’ need for real and meaningful studies by integrating academic work into their work at the farm and meeting their needs for physically challenging activities and contributing members of their wider community,” said Head of School BethAnn Slater.
The online shop for MMS pork provides sausage and cuts to the local community. Ishan Ramesh, an MMS student, explained, “Instead of having to go to a public area (which can be breeding places for germs) to buy pork, at the Middleburg Montessori Hog Operation’s customers now only have to order online at our all-new pork takeout website. We then coordinate with our teachers and MMS alumni Bobby and CatiAdele Slater to help fill the orders, either with a contactless pickup station at our school or a porch delivery for orders over 10 pounds.”
The farm has a delicious selection of pork products to offer, such as bratwursts, breakfast links, Italian sausages, chorizo, pork chops, roasts, and even half or whole hogs. Delivery is provided for free to any customers within a 50-mile range for orders 10 pounds and over.
Middleburg Montessori has been providing authentic Montessori education in the Middleburg area for 40 years and provides care and education for children from infancy through middle school. MMS is located in the village of Atoka at 7274 Rectors Ln, Marshall, VA 20115. Please visit www.middleburgmontessori.com for more information on the hog operation and other programs.