Second grader Fiona L. will do a series of interviews throughout the year with members of the SHS community
Fridays with Fiona is a monthly webseries featuring second grader Fiona L. (LMS '23). Fiona's work has been featured in
The Almanac, including a recenly published interview with Olympic gold medalist KK Clark (SHP '08)
Fridays with Fiona: A Conversation with Dr. SlafterOn Wednesday, September 28, 2016, I went to the farm to talk to Dr. Slafter to find out about his background, and to find out more about the farm and the garden.
Fiona: Thanks for taking time to talk with me, Dr. Slafter. So, how did you get into this type of work - did you grow up on a farm?
Dr. Slafter: Well, I grew up in Wyoming, and though I was a town kid, my mother grew up on a cattle ranch not far from where we lived, so instead of going on vacation I used to go to my mom’s cattle ranch all the time. I grew up being surrounded by cows and ranchers and horses. I really was a town kid so I didn’t spend all day long milking and branding, but I had enough exposure that it was easy for me to start doing this.
Fiona: What was the first animal you owned?
Dr. Slafter: When I was a kid my parents brought home a black and brown Miniature Dachshund and her name was Twiggles and I loved her from the very beginning.
Fiona: How long have you worked at Sacred Heart?
Dr. Slafter: I have been working here since 1999 – for so long that many of the people that work at this school are my former students, including Ms. Chamorro over there. This is my 18th year in a row!
Fiona: Ohhhh [laughing]. Do you have any animals at your house?
Dr. Slafter: Yes and no. We have one cat named Raymo who has been alive even longer than our son, Marco, who is 10. And for a long time we had a big dog who was part Great Dane - over 100 pounds - named Truman. A couple of years ago he died, but he was an old dog and that happens to dogs. It was very sad for all of us, and super sad for my son, so at some point we are going to get another dog but right now we just have Raymo. He likes to be picked up and hugged all day long.
Fiona: That sounds like my dog. Have any animals escaped from the farm?
Dr. Slafter: Well, there have been some temporary escapees. The only animals that I thought were really going to get away were some rabbits. About three years ago, some rabbits made their way to another part of campus and started living there. So I had to have some of the boys, who were in Middle School at the time, but are now in high school - Brian, Xavier and Matthew - go catch the rabbits with cages. It took them weeks but eventually the boys rounded them all up and returned them to the farm.
Fiona: What’s happening in the garden - are we going to harvest olives this year?
Dr. Slafter: Yes, we are going to harvest olives this year! We are going to have two or three separate harvests. The first harvest is going to be mostly ninth graders on October 28 from new olive trees, planted by students. They are the sort of trees that always stay small, so even medium sized kids can harvest them. And then we are also going to do a big harvest at the beginning of November with the large trees on the other side of campus. So, thumbs up to an olive harvest this year!
Fiona: What is your doctor[ate] in?
Dr. Slafter: Originally, what I taught here is what my doctorate is in, which is European History. My bread and butter, for many years at the school, was teaching Modern European History and its something I still take a deep interest in, but I became interested, as I got older, in other things, and that’s the normal way of life - you tend to develop other interests as you get older.
Fiona: What’s your favorite book?
Dr. Slafter: I must admit when I was a ninth grader, I was one of those very nerdy boys who loved The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and all of that J.R.R. Tolkien stuff, and even though, as a grown-up, I have lost my interest in that, when I look back and think about books that have been the most formative in my lifetime, I’d have to say they are The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Fiona: How old does a student have to be to work at the farm?
Dr. Slafter: In the past there have been students from the Lower School who would occasionally come over and collect eggs which I was very happy with - but it has to be a student, if they are young, who is very eager and mature and meticulous. Otherwise they usually have to be in high school, but that doesn’t always mean they are more meticulous [laughing].
Fiona: Umm, be careful, they are right over there [points to a group of Prep students with the goats].
Dr. Slafter: Oh, yes, I see a whole bunch of them!
Fiona: What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Dr. Slafter: Well, my favorite thing about the job is showing students who have never tried a particular thing, how it’s done. For example, milking. Its one of the best things, Fiona, to bring a class of freshman out here who have never milked and teach them all to milk because they scream like crazy people.
Fiona: Yes, that’s what our class did. Thank you for talking with me, Dr. Slafter.
Dr. Slafter: It is my pleasure. It is so cool of you to come on out here to the farm for this interview, Fiona.