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Notes on camp

(article, Anne Laufe)

In the last few years, the term “farm camp” has taken on a whole new meaning. No longer does it refer to those exclusive overnight camps where each attendee is assigned his or her own horse for the week/month/summer, to ride and groom and fall in love with, while someone else takes care of the dirty work. 

Now farm camps are cropping up all over the country where kids actually farm. At these camps, children as young as three learn to take care of animals, plant crops, harvest them, and prepare food. The emphasis is on connecting kids with the sources of their food, and kids seem to be eating it up.

[%image girl float=left width=400 caption="Summer camps help kids learn where their food comes from."]At the Prairie Crossing Learning Farm in Grayslake, Illinois, kids can enjoy the outdoors as they explore where their food comes from on a working organic farm. 

The farm is part of the Prairie Crossing Conservation Community, an intentional community about 40 miles northwest of Chicago. During the two-week day camps, children ages three through nine learn about soil, insects, chickens, and growing food, and they also prepare fresh snacks from the farm. 

Shelburne Farms, on the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vermont, has themed summer day camps for kids ages three through 14. One program, the week-long “Farm to Pizza Camp,” is a sure crowd-pleaser: kids get to grind wheat into flour, harvest vegetables, prepare the sauce, milk a cow, explore how cheese is made, and celebrate at the end of the week with a pizza party.

Zenger Urban Agricultural Park in Portland, Oregon, offers a unique urban farming experience. On a six-acre farm, kids ages six to 12 can get their hands dirty helping the farmer tend her fields. They also snack on fruit from heirloom trees and make lunch one day with a local chef, using ingredients they harvest themselves.

A host to school groups during the year, The Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts, becomes an overnight camp in the summer months. Students in grades 6 through 11 can choose between five-day or 11-day sessions in which they milk cows, garden, cook, and care for the pigs, goats, and chickens on the farm.

Those interested in farming but also seeking the traditional residential camp experience should check out the Plantation Farm Camp in northern California. Kids ages eight through 17 have the opportunity to canoe, swim, ride horses, and sing around the campfire as well as care for the animals and gardens on this working farm. Plantation also offers weekend Family Camps, for adults wanting to re-experience the magic of summer camp.

girl, l