Steppin’ Stone Farm

Well the latest GET REAL Involved! trip took us to Steppin’ Stone Farm, and what a great experience it was! Steppin’ Stone, for those who do not know, is a home for at risk teenage girls. It’s 85 acres of working farm on the Alafia River in Lithia, FL. and there are up to 27 girls there at any one time. They live in group homes and work the farm, which means tending to the animals and a nursery where they grow ornamental plants and grasses.

There were about 20 of us, and we got there a little late, but the girls were there waiting for us. First we went on a tour of the Farm. They have steers and chickens and pigs and goats. Some of the girls, called “steer girls” are in charge of taking care of the steers as part of a 4H program for which they get high school credit. The chickens provide fresh eggs every day! The girls have chores and school each day — either they are tending to one of the farm chores, or preparing meals and manning the kitchen. There isn’t much down time.

The tour is always my favorite part of a visit to Steppin’ Stone. Three “old girls” give us a tour of all the animals and the group homes and give us a glimpse into a day in the life of a girl on the Farm. There are strict rules, but it doesn’t seem to be stifling or severe there. The girls are happy and seemed filled with renewed purpose — chief among that purpose is to change their lives. The girls are open and friendly and have a bright outlook.

After the tour we got to work helping them tend to their “cash crop” of ornamental/architectural grasses and plants. The crops are sold at the Strawberry Festival to raise money for scholarships. And with only up to 27 girls there at any given time, and all the other chores that keep an 85 acre farm going it sometimes is tough to keep the nursery in great shape. Enter our 20 sets of hands! We whipped through several rows of beds in about three hours and got those plants in great shape. Now the task for the girls is much more manageable.

After our work in the nursery we got to eat lunch with the girls. It was a special occasion in that one of the girls was celebrating a birthday. Her whole family had come up from Miami and made homemade fried chicken, shepherd’s pie and green beans. Yum! Everyone had a great time, and really enjoyed the food.

The students who went seemed to be impressed with the girls and their ability to overcome some fairly big stuff and clearly are facing life with a renewed outlook. That gave us all something to think about.

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