“Hey Lyle, What’s up man? So Camp EarthDance? Amazing! I loved harvesting the green beans. Then we can’t forget the pizza . . . yummy!- Camper Kate Scheffing, age 13
To close a week of fun and discovery, the campers of Camp EarthDance wrote a letter to a friend, reflecting on their experiences. Like Kate, many of the campers raved about what they ate, learned, and did. The camp, which ran June 18-22nd, included lessons about what makes an organic farm special; practice with farming tools and techniques; classes on how and why to prepare healthy meals from local ingredients; and afternoon fitness activities like swimming and yoga.
Camp EarthDance debuted in 2011, spearheaded by former EarthDance apprentice and retired middle-school teacher Nancy Schnell. Schnell frequently expresses her appreciation for the apprenticeship. She wanted to offer young people the opportunity to encounter organic farming, just as she had done. She wanted students to see that food grows in soil (not on supermarket shelves), and to learn to prepare fresh, healthy meals. The first year of camp fulfilled Nancy’s hopes, and then some: the students enjoyed kale, spinach and beets, and several volunteered regularly on the farm, joining Nancy’s “kids crew” on harvest days.
To build on the success of Camp EarthDance 2011, EarthDance recruited several summer camp interns to make the 2012 version even more successful. Courtney Bobsin and Catherine Ostoich helped facilitate the on-farm education by leading games and discussions about organic farming. Jennifer Combs and Cari French, recent graduates of the dietetics program at Florissant Vallley Community College led meal planning and delivered lessons about nutritious eating. Thanks Courtney, Catherine, Jennifer and Cari!
Counter to the perception that adolescents prefer texting and video games to farm work, and junk food to healthy eating, most of the 16 junior farmers of Camp EarthDance 2012 were enthusiastic about all of the week’s activities, though some were initially skeptical. Jesse Lovejoy, 13, acknowledged that she wasn’t sure what to expect when her Aunt, a former EarthDance apprentice encouraged her to enroll in the camp. She wrote “Camp EarthDance is a lot more fun than it looks on the outside. You’ll do TONS of things on the farm (hands-on) and try some new foods. You’ll learn how to eat healthier and even meet a certain farm dog named Petey . . .”
Each day, campers met at Ferguson Middle, where the whole crew boarded the Jolly Trolley, courtesy of the city of Ferguson. The bus took campers to EarthDance at the Mueller Farm. At the farm, the students took field walks to observe the crops and wildlife. Other activities included a scavenger hunt to find different aspects of the farm’s ecosystem; a few rounds of the game “nutrient cycle freeze-tag” to better understand the process by which decomposer organisms help build healthy soil; and role-playing a mock farmers market. EarthDance staff also taught the campers how to use hula hoes to weed a bed of beans, carefully transplant scallion seedlings from trays to the earth, and how to harvest delicate Taverna green beans for market. The hot weather made occasional shade breaks necessary. Fortunately, a snack of fresh watermelon made the breaks truly refreshing.
When campers returned to Ferguson middle, lunch preparations were overseen by Jennifer and Cari. Highlights of the week’s meals included cous-cous cakes, fruit salad with (camper)-made poppy-seed dressing, and of course, personal pizzas with farm-fresh toppings. After meal time, Jennifer led several lessons related to healthy choices; campers discussed nutrition labels and “traffic light eating” (so-called “red-light” foods, like french fries and sodas should cause us to stop and think, perhaps making a healthier choice or selecting a small portion, while green-light selections, like colorful veggies and fruits are “go for it” foods.)
Each day ended with a physical activity. Swimming, yoga, and hula-hoop fitness gave our campers the opportunity to relax and have fun—which definitely helped as the students processed new ideas, tastes, experiences and friendships. On Friday, most campers were amazed by how the week had flown by.
EarthDance would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their support of Camp EarthDance: Camp Counselor Justinn Johnson, Home Economics instructor Beth Derhake, Ferguson Middle School Principal Susan Kelly, Wayne Pritchard of Chipotle Mexican Grill, The City of Ferguson, NCR-SARE( North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program) and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.