Farm school seeded with $130K: Hawlemont principal says there’s strong community support

The Greenfield Recorder, February 7, 2014. By Diane Broncaccio

CHARLEMONT — Hawlemont has a little lamb, and now it has a $130,000 Community Innovation Challenge Grant with which to put together an agricultural-based curriculum in time for the start of school by this fall.

“We’re very excited, although the students don’t know about it yet,” said Principal Travis Yagodzinski, who said the students and teachers would hear about it later Thursday afternoon, at an all-school assembly. “It will be a great way to end the day. We’re just ecstatic.”

Yagodzinski explained that the news had been embargoed until the state announced all projects that received Community Innovation Challenge Grants on Thursday afternoon.

The grant is one of seven Community Innovation Grants awarded totaling over $720,000 and involving Franklin County towns as part of a $4 million program to support regionalization efforts statewide.

School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti was in Boston Thursday, to represent Hawlemont. On Jan. 17, Buoniconti and Hawlemont School Committee Chairwoman Ivy Palmer traveled to Boston to bring students’ letters of support for the farm-based curriculum.

“This grant award is truly spectacular news for the entire Hawlemont community,” said Buoniconti. “This level of funding will enable us to move forward with our plan to reconstitute and rejuvenate Hawlemont Regional School with a novel and innovative curriculum of hands-on learning that is focused on agriculture.”

The amount of funding requested in Hawlemont’s application was $325,000, but Yagodzinski said he’s very happy with the $130,000 grant award.

“We were shooting for the moon,” said Yagodzinski. “We’ve had people coming to us asking what they can do to help.”

Yagodzinski said the Franklin County Technical School is interested in building the school’s barn and someone has already offered to donate lumber for it. He said the school has also gotten advice on where to get bargains for the school’s greenhouse and farm tools that will be needed.

“My inclination — when I look at everything — is that the major projects should be able to happen,” he said. “The curriculum work and the structures — I don’t see any reason why we’re not going to have a barn or a greenhouse. So much of this is completely within reach. We’re hearing from people that they’ll donate their time and resources. The community has already made these statements of ‘how can I help?’ The structures are going to be here the first day of school, barring any permitting problems.”

Hawlemont’s grant request was for money to construct an on-premises chicken coop, a 24-by-30-foot barn and a greenhouse — both with electricity and plumbing.

It was also for hiring an educational group, Fertile Ground of Williamsburg, to coordinate the program, working with the teachers, consultants and farmers throughout the first year of construction and implementation.

The lamb, named Shaggy by the schoolchildren, is a bottle-fed lamb that was given to the school to start off its farm-based learning initiative a week ago by Erwin Reynolds Sr. of Charlemont.

The next steps for the school’s Agricultural Curriculum Project will be discussed at Tuesday’s school committee meeting, at 4:15 p.m., in Hawlemont.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 277