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Teaching kids about ag at camp

Teaching kids about ag at camp

Young Roots Camp helps campers produce, prepare and eat the foods they grow

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Young Roots Farm photo

A summer camp in Quebec is teaching young people about agriculture.

Camp Amy Molson, which provides children in the Montreal area aged five to 14 living in vulnerable circumstances with an outdoor experience, focuses on ag through its Young Roots Farm program.

“We’re an educational farm within the summer camp,” Farm Coordinator Ana Castillo told Farms.com.

More than 550 campers visit and participate on the farm throughout the summer and harvest season. The campers help grow more than 900 kg of vegetables, fruits and herbs each year. They also prepare and share meals with the ingredients they’ve produced.

Liang Cheng, a Camp Amy Molson supporter and Castillo’s mentor upon her employment at the camp, suggested the idea of a farm program about 11 years ago.

He took inspiration Hope Blooms, Castillo said.

“It’s an educational farm in Nova Scotia,” she said. “They have agricultural programs there where they teach about agriculture, sell ag products and assemble food boxes for the community.”

Young Roots farm launched in 2011 with a small plot and has grown since.

The size of the farm has increased, and more infrastructure is available to campers.

“We started with a small plot and now we have about three-quarters of an acre,” Castillo said. “This includes more than 30 vegetable beds, an outdoor kitchen, a permanent greenhouse and a wash station.”

One educational component of the farm is teaching the campers how powerful food can be.

The visitors develop an appreciation for food and agriculture during the meals, Castillo said.

“With every meal we set up a salad bar,” she said. “Earlier in the day some of us will harvest the vegetables for the salad and you can see the pride and amazement in their eyes when they pull a carrot out of the ground that they helped grow and will use it to feed their community. It’s very powerful for them to have that agency over what they’re eating.”

Another part of the education revolves around food waste.

Young Roots Farm makes its own compost, which is made up of food that didn’t get eaten.

Seeing perfectly good food going to compost instead of being consumed is an eye-opener for some the campers, Castillo said.

“The kids will see a whole bagel go into the compost and wish they could’ve eaten it at breakfast that morning,” she said. “When they see the food going somewhere else instead of going into their bodies, it drives home how precious food is.”

Castillo and staff at Young Roots Farm have a few connections with the local ag community but are always looking for more.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the farm can contact Castillo via email or call (514) 484-9919.


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