A Day at Farm Camp
Grow La Crosse exists to connect children to healthy food and nature. Our farm camps offer area youth an in depth experience in exactly that.
Our farm camps are held at Deep Roots Community Farm in La Crosse, a 170 acre family farm that uses organic and sustainable farming practices to produce vegetables, flowers, and beef. We begin most mornings of farm camp in the gardens taste testing things like bee balm, red clover, kale, borage, calendula, and different varieties of raspberries. Red clover, with its sweet nectar at the bottom of the blossoms seems to be everyone’s favorite, although we are always amazed by the quantity of raw kale that gets consumed out of the garden… and the enthusiasm with which it is done! I love it when one child exclaims how awesome kale is, and everyone nods in agreement, mouths stuffed full of kale.
In our last farm camp, Summer Inspired on the Farm, we harvested peas, beans, zucchini, and garlic and students left with part of the harvest to share with their families. We also learned about native plants such as nettles which Nymphaildae butterflies need to lay their eggs on. We identified other common plants on the farm including elderberry, burdock, boxelder, and cup plant. We finished up by talking about some of the ways these plants are useful to humans and wildlife.
Samantha, a Master’s Student in Biology at UWL, helped us understand how aquaponics systems work as we built them together. We learned how the fish feed the lettuce and the lettuce purifies the water for the fish. This allowed us to expand the idea of how everything in the ecosystem is interconnected to larger habitats on the farm.
Every day we had quiet time with the animals. We loved watching the chickens take dust baths and chase after insects and watching the pigs forage. Butter the pony is always a favorite. We spend a lot of time talking about how the way we act and speak around animals affects how the animals feel. We learn about how animals communicate and about how horses in particular give us signs about their comfort with their eyes and ears. After learning safety basics, we spend time working with the horses. The children love it when they find a particularly itchy spot and Butter sticks her nose high up in the air and wiggles her lip because it feels so good. It is pretty special when everyone is so relaxed and happy that the pony starts to take a little nap while they are working with her. We hope that the connections children form with these animals at camp stay with them as they interact with the larger world.
Finally, farm camp would not be farm camp without ending the days with free time at the creek. The children take so readily to different types of play while we are down there, from relaxing and looking for shapes in the clouds, to constructing mud slides on the banks, to building dams and bridges, to looking for neat rocks and fossils. So far this year, we’ve found some pretty impressive stromatolites (fossilized cyanobacteria) and a piece of petrified wood. The children end the day are a wee bit dirty, full of healthy food, tired in a good way, and noticeably happy and content, already looking forward to the adventures of the next day.
If farm camp sounds like something your child might enjoy please check out the following camps…..
Inspired Little Hands on the Farm ∙ July 26- 28 ∙ 9:00am-12:00pm
Ages 3 – 5 years olds ∙ $110
Summer Inspired Girls on the Farm ∙ August 1-3 ∙ 11:30am-4:30pm
Girls Grades 5-8 (Grade in Spring 2016) ∙ $140
Summer on the Farm ∙ August 3-5 ∙ 9:00am-2:00pm
Ages 5-13 ∙ $110