Fresh Air kids immerse in Vermont farm life

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(Host) Roughly 500 inner city kids come to Vermont each summer as part of the Fresh Air Fund. The children live for two weeks with volunteer host families. Tuesday, a group of Fresh Air Fund kids visiting central Vermont got a taste of farm life.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Sound of kids arriving at a farm)
“I’m one of the Fresh Air Kids!”
“That’s great. Are you having a good time?”
“Where are you from?”
“New York.”

(Zind) It’s probably a safe bet that none of the inner city kids who converged on Rosina Wallace’s dairy farm in Waterbury had ever made cream before. “Shake it, shake it, shake it! And pass it to your friend.”

Or come face to face with a cow. “Moo! You don’t care about the flies on youuu!”

Or, for that matter, a governor.

(Jim Douglas) “Welcome to Vermont. This is the most beautiful state in America, right?”

(Zind) It was a day of firsts for this group of Fresh Air Kids. They were treated to a picnic of hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh fruit and Vermont diary products, all spread out under a tent on the farmhouse lawn. A four-day old Jersey calf attracted a crowd.

(Adult) “What do you think it eats?”
(Child) “Drinks milk and eats grass.”

(Zind) The connection between cows and milk was, well, almost clear. As he headed out to the field for a game of Kick the Can, 10-year old Christopher Perez of Brooklyn was concerned about stepping in another farm product.

(Perez) “The ‘munuruh’. That’s how you say it right? The ‘munuruh”? The cow ‘munuruh’?”

(Zind) Christopher and 12-year old Kaisson Tompkins are staying with Marie and Jim McWilliam of Worcester. The McWilliam’s children are grown, but this year they decided to sign up as Fresh Air hosts.

(McWilliam) “We’ve been interested in doing it for a while. We thought it would be a way of enriching our summer.” … “It’s delightful. These two kids are just wonderful.”

(Zind) Swimming, fishing, picking strawberries, catching a ballgame and seeing the sights are all on the list of activities for these kids. Takiyah Donaway has been in the Fresh Air program for six years. Each year she spends two weeks helping out at Rosina Wallace’s farm.

(Donaway) “It’s a good experience. I like the cows and Rosina’s a nice person. It’s good to get away.”

(Zind) Nine-year old Ruthie Felipe is simply grateful it’s not as hot as it is in New York.

(Felipe) “It’s not burning here. In New York it’s really, really burning.”

(Zind) Ruthie says the only drawback is she misses her family. Connie Coleman of Warren is a coordinator with the Fresh Air Fund. She says the Fresh Air experience is rewarding for the children and the host families.

(Coleman) “It’s just a small thing that we in Vermont can offer a disadvantage child. It’s a very personal way to relate to some larger issues.”

(Zind) For Vermont, I’m Steve Zind in Waterbury.

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