Preserving the land for future generations
In the 1990s, as the rural qualities of southern Maine life were being threatened by rampant development, Ethel Hilton, the 9th generation of the Hilton‐Winn family, was dedicated to preserving the woodlands, wetlands, and agricultural character of this historic property for future generations to enjoy. In 1998 she donated 185 acres of the property to the York Land Trust, which now forms the Hilton‐Winn King’s Grant Conservation Area.
The Youth Enrichment Center is born
In 2002 Youth Enrichment Center Executive Director Nancy Breen purchased the remaining central 48 acres of rolling fields and forests with one goal in mind: to establish a safe, peaceful, and fun environment for children to connect with the land, learn about the science and art of farming, and be transformed along the way.
Since the center’s founding in 2002, Breen and supporters have renovated the farm’s structures, including the old farmhouse and barn. Currently, the center’s Board of Directors is planning additional restoration and planting activities.
Experiencing the beauty and connecting with the teeming life of the outdoors benefits all children (and grown-ups, too!). Spending time outdoors has been shown to improve concentration and focus and to reduce symptoms of challenging conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention-deficit disorder (ADD). Additionally, nature-based education is especially beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorder because it provides a fun and safe environment where these children are connected and focused and on par with everyone else.
Being part of the farm’s activities broadens a child’s possibilities and world view. Children indulge all their senses by harvesting ripe vegetables and fruits right out of the rich soil, their eyes full of delight and wonder. They develop a feeling of pride that they are important enough, big enough, and valuable enough to twist a misshapen but beautifully natural cucumber from its vine. They respect the cucumber. They crunch into the cucumber and smile and are ultimately inspired and engaged. It’s a beautiful thing.
Our nature- and farm-based education programs serve thousands of children, teens, and families from southern Maine, coastal New Hampshire, and the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. Whether you’re a parent, and educator, or a kid, the Youth Enrichment Center has a program for you.