Category: Featured

A VISIT TO THE AMERICAN FARM SCHOOL / THESSALONIKI

by Georgia Marketos

On a warm autumn morning in the middle of October I found myself among open fields, olive groves and well-kempt grounds with the joyous sounds of children’s voices; they were taking advantage during recess, as children always do, of a wonderful sunny day.  It was my first visit to the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, located near Macedonia Airport, and I was lucky to have Anna, from the office of Alumni Relations and Community Engagement, as my personal guide!

As we walked around the campus, Anna related the history of the School which was founded by Dr. John Henry House in 1902 when he arrived in Thessaloniki with his wife Susan Adeline Beers House. They came  from missionary teaching posts they had held since 1870 in Bulgaria.  Dr. House then purchased, through donations, 50 acres of barren land, planted 400 mulberry trees, drilled a fifty-five meter well and hired a gardener:  the School’s first employee.

In 1904 the school, then called Thessalonica Agricultural & Industrial Institute, was incorporated in the state of New York as a registered charity with the mission to educate the local population in the skills needed to succeed in farming.

Around 1910, Dr. John Henry House wrote his Creed for the school:

I believe in a permanent agriculture, in a soil that grows richer, rather than poorer, from year to year.

I believe in living not for self, but for others, so that future generations may not suffer on account of my farming methods.

I believe that tillers of the soil are stewards of the land and will be held accountable for the faithful performance of their trust.

I am proud to be a farmer and will try to be worthy of the name.

These are the principles which have always guided the American Farm School and continue to do so in the 21st century.

In 1922, construction of Princeton Hall, the “Parthenon” of the American Farm School (AFS) began.  It still stands today, stately and imposing, as the administration building. 

The AFS’s long history (the Centennial celebration was in 2004) has included many difficult times like the closing of the School in 1941 when the campus was requisitioned by Axis Forces, and in 1942, with the deportation of the Director Charles House and his wife Ann Kellogg House to concentration camps.

The happy moments have been innumerably more.  Some of these were in 1935 when pasteurized milk was first introduced in Greece with the opening of a pasteurinzing bottling plant which distributed the milk, produced at the School, to the Greek market; in 1946 with the founding of the Girls’ School whose official name was Quaker Domestic Training School; in 1978 when the AFS adopted the officially recognized Greek state curricula of Technical Vocational High School and Technical Vocational School.

During its long history, the AFS has received many honors.  Some of these are:  Gold Cross of the Order of the Savior by the Greek government (awarded to Charles Lucius House in 1932 and to Bruce Lansdale in 1962); in 1986 Bruce Lansdale was awarded the Commander of the Order of Honor by the Greek government.  In 2001 the Academy of Athens awarded the School for “the education it provides rural youth and for its contribution to the rural development of Greece since 1904.”

 

In recent years, the school has grown rapidly with the addition of Perrotis College of Agricultural Studies (1996) and its expansion in 2007 with the opening of the Educational Dairy and Milk Processing Training Center, the Department of Lifelong Learning (1998), and the Aliki Perroti Student Residence (2010), the founding of the Primary School for Experiential Learning (2011) where young students “learn by doing.”

In the picture above and the three that follow, one can see that the students have everything they need in order to tend to their gardens.

The Chapel of Saint Ioannis Chrysostomos on the American Farm School campus is used for weddings and baptisms with only candles for light inside the church since there is no electricity.  Ceremonies take place in a truly divine atmosphere.

During the last ten years there have been even more additions to the School:  in 2012 the Center for Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship was founded and in 2013, the Aliki Perroti Research Laboratories at Perrotis College were created.  The Perrotis College Krinos Olive Center opened in 2013 and the following year a one-year certificate program in Greek entitled Contemporary Agricultural Practices was established for high school graduates.  Perrotis College currently has a School of Graduate Studies and in 2018 the Institute of Technological Studies was opened.  Finally, in 2019 the Haseotes Middle School opened.

 

The American Farm School in Thessaloniki has a very strong Alumni Association and graduates who really care about the school and its future; their donations help to make an impact on the educational experiences of future generations. The scholarship programs of the American Farm School help many students pursue their dreams in ways they had not imagined. The newest buildings on campus bear the names of their benefactors.

This is the home of the current AFS President, Dr. Jeff Lansdale, the ninth president of the school.  In its garden stands a bust in honor of AFS’s longest-serving president, Dr. Bruce Lansdale.

Even though Anna and I walked for over an hour, I still never got to see the cows, the chickens or the turkeys.  Milk and yogurt, made from AFS cows, eggs from AFS chickens as well as turkeys raised on the premises, are sold in supermarkets throughout Greece.

As my tour came to an end, I realized that I had visited a very unique educational institution in Greece.  The American Farm School works very hard—at all educational levels—to inspire its students to become innovators and stewards of a sustainable planet in the future.  All their programs have a vision towards tradition, innovation, experiential learning, discovery and research.  Dr. House’s Creed has come full circle.

N.B. More information can be obtained from the American Farm School Archives and Historical Collection which can be found at https://archives.afs.edu.gr/. Here, interested parties can access digital resources (photographs and other media) of historical significance for the American Farm School, the city of Thessaloniki, and the wider region of the Balkans.

OUR AWOG LOGO AND OUR BANNER

Of timeless value, the Greek olive tree is one of the oldest symbols in the history of mankind. It is a symbol of health and longevity, perseverance, prosperity and growth, and of course, peace. It is a gift from the gods linked with renaissance and light.

The Olive wreath, also known as kotino, was the prize awarded to the winners at the ancient Olympic Games and is one of the most well-known and often-used symbols in Greece.

Our AWOG logo was selected with this in mind, in order to honor our host country. The 1948 in the center of the wreath represents the year we were founded.  The Greek-American flags, we think, speak for themselves – inseparable and intertwined in friendship.

The Acronym AWOG became “A Way of Giving” a long time ago by our then Honorary President, Libby Burns, wife of Ambassador Nicholas Burns, during an event when she spoke with much affection and respect about our Organization.

Wherever AWOG goes, our banner goes with us: at lectures, fundraisers, dinner dances, bazaars and galas.

It represents who we are and what we do.

AWOG PROJECT STAYING ALIVE

The project was brought to AWOG by a Board Member who saw a video of an Italian lady making masks on the Internet.  She brought the idea to the Board who approved the idea of making masks for hospitals. We asked Dr. Pelagia Karas, AWOG 1st VP and Heart Pillow Coordinator, to contact hospitals and she informed us that they are in need of masks for the personnel and doctors at Paidon Hospitals and the masks we suggested were approved by the Directors of Aghia Sophia and Aglaia Kyriakou Hospitals. Dr. Karas also spoke to Asklipeio Hospital Voula who have remained open for operations and are in dire need of masks.

Funds for the material to make the masks were donated by our AWOG members.

Two AWOG Board Members, Zaharo Laios and Sherry Cossyphas have chaired the sewing committee doing all the ordering and cutting and sending ready parcels to the sewers. We had a total of 12 sewers; 10 members and 2 friends of AWOG.  During the lockdown the logistics of ordering the materials and getting them to sewers has been very complicated.  However, due to the dedication of all involved,  to date 1,500 masks have or will soon be delivered to the three hospitals.

AWOG TURNS 70

AWOG celebrated its 70th anniversary in September 2018 at the Residence of the American Ambassador to Greece.  Ambassador Pyatt and AWOG Honorary President Mary Pyatt were gracious hosts for an evening of reminiscing and acknowledging the history and accomplishments of AWOG members during its seventy years of existence.  Now we are looking ahead to 2023 when AWOG turns 75!

AWOG Heart Pillow Project

The Heart Pillow Project initiative began in 2001 at Erlanger Medical Center, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA, and has expanded to more than 50 cities and 18 countries worldwide since then.

What is the heart pillow? It is a soft, heart-shaped pillow which was designed to lessen the pain and discomfort caused to women after breast cancer surgery.

AWOG members began sewing and delivering these pillows in 2007 and continue to do so. The pillows are 100% cotton, made to very exacting specifications and have a wonderful, soft filling. They are also quite colorful and beautiful to look at.

This project, worked on during the entire year, not only during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, gives members an opportunity to have “stuffing parties” to sew, stuff and package the heart pillows.

Throughout the years, AWOG members have created approximately 10,000 pillows, made with love and personally delivered to hospitals  throughout the prefecture of Attiki, Greece, but also to hospitals in other parts of the country. They are part of the “hands on” work of our organization.

Each heart pillow is delivered in its own plastic bag with an attached card from AWOG.  The pillows not only bring cheer but also relieve pain which is evident from the feedback we receive from many patients who have received them.  To our members who work so hard making them, this is certainly heartwarming news.