Unison-Bloomfield High School. Photo courtesy of Unison Preservation Society. Dated prior to 1934.

Six generations of farming and education are the foundation of School Hill Garden and Tiny Acre Farm. The house that sits on this five-acre farm in Unison, Virginia is home to farmers Terri and Jim Teeter but tells a story that entwines farming and education spanning well over 100 years.

“This was the Unison-Bloomfield School,” said Terri. “Four acres of the land was donated by one farmer to Loudoun County Public Schools and one acre was donated by another. My grandmother graduated from this very building in 1922. I still have her high school diploma.”

The doors to the school were opened in 1917 but shuttered just 27 years later in 1944 due to a devastating fire that destroyed everything above ground. While the school was open, the wood floors were maintained and polished with motor oil, and the building was heated by a coal stove in the basement—a tinderbox waiting to be ignited. Unfortunately, the school was never rebuilt but when the property was put up for sale in 1945, Terri’s grandparents, Mary Francis and Joshua Craun, purchased it for $1,100 and began what would become a local legacy.

Snapshot of basement in 2023. Many artifacts from the early to mid-1900s are still present.

The small glass house built with windows from the school. Also shows the crocheted blankets and aloe plant.

“My parents and grandparents were here for 85 years. They lived in the basement,” Terri reflected. “The property is full of memories. All my grandparents’ belongings were in the basement and anything that didn’t get destroyed in the school fire stayed on the property. The windows for the small glass house were from the school. We found them when digging through the barn to look for items to build the structure. The blankets in there were crocheted by my grandmother, those spider plants were hers, and I still have her original aloe plant.”

“The big greenhouse is where the original garden spot was,” Terri continued, motioning to the back of the property. “I was here all summer long digging in the dirt with my grandma. This is the land where I got into farming. My grandmother kept a diary of everything that went on with the farm. She was still digging at 94 and lived to be over 100. There’s a picture of me and my grandfather walking and holding hands going toward the milk cows. I grew up in this dirt and with the amount of knee scrapes and mud pies from this very soil, I wouldn’t be surprised if it literally flowed in my blood!”

A former educator herself, Terri always felt a connection between farming and education. While teaching science and math at Mountain View Middle School in Purcellville, Terri also taught students to garden and feels that both farming and education should be exciting and something that people can look forward to every day.

“That’s the intent,” Terri said. “Whether someone is teaching them to garden or teaching them lessons, it should be fun. When I taught students how to garden, each one had a raised bed. It got some attention, too! Other schools started to contact me about it and then started their own. I love to see the excitement in kids’ eyes when they get to pick a vegetable that they grew from a tiny seed.”

Knowing where food comes from and being able to share the bounty of farming with the community is important to Terri. Farming and education are so deeply rooted in her that she continues to teach as she tends, welcoming interns from Woodgrove High School in Purcellville who learn gardening and farming firsthand. The ultimate dream is to one day combine her two passions and have a farm school on the property.

“I would love to do a farm school or summer camps—especially for those who have disabilities or come from underprivileged families,” Terri shared. “Protecting and teaching. I love nurturing young seedlings. Plants need the right environment and so do children. People should start young and not wait until they’re too old to do what they love.”

In a tender moment, her husband Jim had a growing smile as she spoke about her dream. As soon as she finished, he said gently, “She’s the best for it. There’s no one better.”

Learn more about School Hill Garden and Tiny Acre Farm including available products and farm store hours by visiting their website at https://www.schoolhillgarden.com.