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812-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, May 29. 1993
Sharing the farm with Fresh Air children is an annual event for Ruth and Lloyd Mar
tin. Here, daughter Ann, left, and Angela from New York City take a break from tramoo
llne Jumping, a favorite activity of the children.
Farms Are For Families
LOU ANN GOOD
Lancaster Farming Staff
LITITZ (Lancaster Co.)
“Farms are for families and I want
to share ours,” Ruth Martin said.
For 31 years, she and her hus
band Lloyd have opened their arms
and their farm to Fresh Air child
ren from New York City.
The delight that shines from the
eyes of these children when they
bottle feed a calf, help dig pota
toes, and pedal bicycle on the Mar
tin’s paved driveway, is reward
enough for Ruth.
“Seeing them learn is so fulfill
ing,” she said. “They need to leant
the simplicsl things that a
watermelon must ripen before you
pick it lhat*sccds must be
planted before beans grow and
that lying and stealing arc not
Many families arc hesitant to
host fresh air children because of
potential problems. That doesn't
stop the Marlin family.
“Sure, there are problems. You
can’toutline the problems ahead of
time because each child is diffe
rent. But the solution is to find a
workable answer. You face the
problems when they arise. Be firm.
It always works out,” she said.
Her philosophy for living is “A
person who has faith to move
mountains must first move little
In her years of caring for Fresh
Air children, Ruth has had plenty
of opportunities to move “little
hills” and even mountains.
One time, a boy arrived in their
home only two days after he had
witnessed someone being mur
dered in an elevator. The first two
days, he would lean against the
wall and cry from the awful mem
ory. Ruth's heart ached for him. In
a few days, he bubbled with
He summed up his transforma
tion by saying, “I feel belter since
you told me that you love me and
God loves me, too.”
The Marlins hosted Fresh Air
children before they had any of
their own. Now, their family
includes Kathy, 24; Tim, 21; Ann,
17; John, 15; and Mike, 12. The
children arc so enthusiastic about
the program that one daughter
vows, “When 1 gel married, 1 will
have three or four Fresh Air child
ren at the same time.”
Several times, the Martins did
host siblings together. “But we
found it worked better to have
them at different times,” Ruth said.
“They seemed to argue more or the
older one would boss the younger
_ _ _ n
In the first years of the program,
the Martins also had Fresh Air
children return to the farm for a
week during Christmas vacation.
In fact, two weeks before the Mar
tins’ first child was bom, they had
two children for a week. It snowed
and the children were constantly in
and out of the house.
“The kitchen floor was a mess
from all the trackcd-in snow,”
Ruth said. “I decided not to wash it
on Saturday because I knew that it
would gel just as dirty the next
When Ruth took the children to
the train terminal on Monday and
returned home, she was pleasantly
surprised to find her husband had
washed the floor.
“He hadn’t done it before and he
■hasn’t done it since,” Ruth said.
Ruth still uses a wringer washer
to do the laundry. “Every child
likes to help with that, but I really
need to keep a close eye on them at
all times,” she said.
Boys especially, the Martins
find, need to be watched closely.
At first, the Marlins were hesit
ant to take boys on the farm
because there are so many ways
they could get hurt. Ruth said that
they found boys must be constant
ly watched because they are more
daring, “but they just love the farm
and it’s so rewarding to see how
much they enjoy it”
Since the Martins have older
children, it makes it easier to keep
a closer tab on the activities of the
Fresh Air children.
The Marlins milk 49 cows on
their 72-acre farm, and have rab
bits, cats, and a Dalmatian dog. At
one time, they also had pigs a
real favorite with Fresh Air
The different lifestyles become
evident in everyday living. Only
two of the children in the 31 years
the Martins have kept them have
grown up with a father living in the
home. Eating habits are different.
One child absolutely insisted that
potato chips needed to be bought
from the store each day because
her family always threw away lef
tovers instead of tightly closing the
bag to preserve them.
While the children like com on
the cob and watermelons from the
garden, they are accustomed to dif
ferent meals than farm families.
Ruth adapts by serving lots of
spaghetti and homemade pizza
during the child’s stay so much so
that her husband once remarked,
“That’s enough spaghetti to last
until next July.”
Farm families usually go to bed
early, but it’s difficult to get city
children to do so. They like to
sleep late in the morning. Ruth said
that she lets each one sleep as long
as desired because it is easier to
have a happy child. But that
doesn’t mean that she is lax in dis
cipline otherwise. The children are
given chores just like her own.
“Some children sulk a little and
complain that they don’t need to
wash dishes at home, but I don’t
back down,” Ruth said.
She finds that it works best to
get children as young as possible
then they cooperate better each
year they return because the child
ren know ahead of time what is
expected of them.
While most Fresh Air children
are poor writers, Ruth said, many
do send pictures from time to time,
and as they grow up and marry, ask
the Martins to host their
Lloyd takes advantages of
teaching the children that there is
another way of life other than
depending on free handouts. When
children say, “Look at all this free
food you get from the farm,” Lloyd
tells them, ‘lt isn’t free. I bought
the farm, I pay taxes, and I planted
Ruth used to wave aside his
explanations with the words, “Oh,
they’re too little to understand.”
Now, she believes that children
grasp a lot of things that make
sense later in life. She thinks it’s
valuable for them to learn how
food is grown and processed.
Fresh Air children are often
amazed that the Martins “live in
this big house all by yourself.”
Some people don’t want to host
Fresh Air children because they
don’t have enough space or believe
the house isn’t furnished very well,
but Ruth said, “These children are
not use to luxuries. They never
While she does not want to
miminizc the problems and incon
veniences of hosting a Fresh Air
child, Ruth wants to encourage
(Turn to Pag* B 14)
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