Enhancing Sustainability at GCDS
GREENWICH, CT, November 18, 2019 – Greenwich Country Day School (GCDS) Headmaster Adam Rohdie announces the school’s acquisition of French Farm, a 110-year-old historic farm on Lake Avenue in Greenwich, CT. The first Greenwich property to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, French Farm’s main house and farm buildings were designed by H. Van Buren Magonigle and built in 1906 for owner Mary Billings French, an heiress and society figure who served as president of the YWCA. Subsequent owner David R. A. Wierdsma, an art collector and horticulturalist, preserved the working aspects of the farm while adding extensive botanical gardens, artifacts, sculpture, and minerals throughout the property. The farm features sheep, chickens, peacocks, herb and vegetable gardens, barns, workshops, and a greenhouse, along with its art and botanical collections. Together, they provide joyful and engaging learning opportunities for students.
“French Farm is a magical place, and nature is a master teacher," says Headmaster Adam Rohdie. “French Farm will engage students in caring for our world and building community. We are excited about the possibilities and committed to being good stewards of the Farm's past and its future."
Recently, GCDS pre-kindergarten classes visited the Farm. They learned about caring for farm animals and had the opportunity to interact with the chickens and sheep. Surprised by how gentle the animals were and full of questions, the children showed how eager they are to be good stewards of the Farm.
The Farm provides interdisciplinary educational opportunities for all grade levels. Current initiatives include planting and growing food for GCDS cafeterias using GCDS food scraps for compost, producing organic eggs, learning greenhouse science and hydroponics to renovate the greenhouse and cold frames for use in food production. Future projects include working with the sheep’s wool, raising chickens for egg production, and rebuilding the sheep house.
GCDS is also pleased to be able to provide housing for faculty members at French Farm, in the property’s main house, greenhouse apartment, and cottage.
About French Farm
French Farm is a four-acre historic farm located on Lake Avenue in Greenwich, CT, originally built between 1905 and 1910 on 35 acres by architect H. Van Buren Magonigle for Mary Billings French. It was the first Greenwich property listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and is also a designated Local Historic Property. In addition to the main house, the outbuildings include the farm’s original chicken coop, milking barn, silo, and greenhouse.
David Wierdsma, a GCDS graduate, who inherited the farm his parents, stewarded the farm for forty years. He created gardens with over 100 plant species and installed collections of sculptures, fossils, petrified wood, and geodes, along with site-specific installations such as a stone “pterodactyl tower.” At the Farm, children can nurture a carrot from seed to table to compost. They can wonder at the long journey of a fossil, care for a sheep, and make meaningful connections between people and nature.
“Friends of French Farm” have made great efforts to preserve the historical and working aspects of the farm, while maintaining the extensive horticultural collections in the spirit and aesthetic created by Wierdsma. GCDS intends to continue to preserve the Farm’s agricultural, historical, and artistic heritage while exploring ways to make the farm a laboratory for learning and sustainability. Wierdsma would be thrilled by the conservation, creativity and innovation that is underway at his beloved French Farm.
Greenwich Country Day School (GCDS) is the only coeducational, college preparatory, independent school in Greenwich, CT, for nursery through grade 12. The purposeful mission of academic excellence and character development is as relevant today as it was at the school’s founding in 1926. GCDS’s curriculum builds a solid background in the sciences and humanities while challenging students to develop critical knowledge and skills through inquiry, exploration, interdisciplinary studies, and real-world applications. The school’s pedagogy and curricula seek to bring forward multiple perspectives, disciplines, and voices as a means to deepen learning and develop empathy—all to help GCDS students graduate as engaged, ethical global citizens. Important lessons are learned not only in the classroom, but also on the playing fields, in the art room, on stage, and through extracurricular activities, such as the chess team, robotics club, and student publications. An extensive community service program and numerous leadership opportunities teach students to turn their initiative and generosity into meaningful action. GCDS is a joyful learning environment where curiosity and creativity are valued, resilience is cultivated, and the health and well-being of every student is essential. GCDS graduates are known as exceptionally well-prepared for success in higher education—and in life.