A Strong Finish for Farm Camp

Sweetwater Farm Camp 2014 has come to a close, and although we’re sad to see our campers go, we’re also ready to settle back into our Field Trip routine. First and foremost, we want to thank our sponsors for helping the Farm Camp come to life. Abby’s Health and Nutrition provided healthy snacks along with beautiful organic produce for making salsa, Annie’s Homegrown cheddar bunnies were a snack time favorite, Global Organics donated essential funds to start up the camp, our dear friends at Nature’s Academy helped to run instruction and experiments concerning our water, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange kindly donated organic seeds for us to plant with our campers! To all of our sponsors: THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Over the weeks, we saw truly amazing growth, both from our crops and our campers. We went on many plant identification hikes where campers absolutely floored us with their ability to remember so many plant species. The greatest surprise for us, however, was the determination and excitement by our campers to transform part of our land into their own garden. It went from weeds to seeds, and from seeds to flourishing foods in no time flat!

At the end of camp week the garden was weed free, invasive free, and filled with tomato plants.
At the end of camp week the garden was weed free, invasive free, and filled with tomato plants.


One activity that campers enjoyed most was our water study with the good folks of Nature’s Academy. Campers got a chance to run four different experiments dealing with water, where it comes from, how its pH is affected by chemicals, and how it is polluted and filtered. Campers also learned about the oil spill of 2009 and the effects of dispersants in the Gulf.


Water Experiments
Water Experiments


A central focus of our camp is getting campers familiar with adaptations in nature. We have an activity that involves watching the adaptive transformations of the Northern white-faced owl, and thinking about different advantages that birds evolve to survive in their environment. We had our campers come up with some inventive and beautiful bird species and had them explain the different adaptations that suit the environment they live in. We got some big laughs out of the lesson, and from watching the “transformation” of the white-faced owl. Check out this link.

Farm Camp Bird Adaptations Drawings
Camper’s drawings of their bird adaptations


One of the most delightful activities each week was getting to use the iPad microscope we constructed for camp. After watching a comical lesson from Bill Nye on cells, we went on a scavenger hunt around the farm to find different samples to test underneath our microscope. We grabbed an assortment of species, including celery, Mexican petunia, morning glory, onion, oxalis, perennial peanut, and shiso. The microscope proved an incredibly cool and ingenious way to take macro-photography and really explore plant cells in a cost-effective way (total construction cost was $10). For our campers it was an eye-opening experience getting a chance to see the intricate and beautiful micro-structures of each of the different species we collected. Our favorite was the Shiso– under a microscope it almost looks like stained glass!

Microscope Study Shiso
Looking at Shiso during our microscope study

All in all, it was a great first summer for us! From nature hikes, to our exciting salsa parties, there was never a dull moment. Our program could not have come to fruition without our dedicated sponsors or without the wonderful parents who signed their kids up,​ and drove them out here for some gardening fun. We want to thank our families and our sponsors, again, and we hope to see more of you for next year’s summer camp.

Until then!

-Christopher Hawthorne, Education Program Director

“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds.

You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.”​

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