July 9, 2012

Farm camp: chores and a chicken coop

For one week, young people attend a 'magical classroom' that connects them to an often distant natural world.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH - Collecting eggs and feeding chickens is an exciting chore at farm camp.

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A group of youngsters taking part in a farm camp at Broadturn Farm in Scarborough explore the chicken pen as they learn about agriculture and animal husbandry. The Broadturn farm camp tradition this year became the nonprofit Long Barn Educational Initiative.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Vanson Cardullo, 9, from Saco, pets a cow at the Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, where he’s learning about life on a working farm.

Additional Photos Below

It's extra exciting when a squealing pig escapes its nearby pen, then runs in circles as farmers try to corral it back into the yard.

Young campers in brightly colored rubber boots froze in their tracks Thursday as the pig ran around them, then quickly resumed their search for fresh eggs at Broadturn Farm. It was all part of a routine morning at a camp that offers children a glimpse at the food cycle and life on a working farm.

The farm camp, a Broadturn Farm tradition, this year has grown into The Long Barn Educational Initiative, a nonprofit organization that will expand farm-based education to include adult workshops, a preschool program and story time for young children. Camp directors say the switch to being a nonprofit will allow them to raise money and apply for grants to expand programming and offer scholarships to campers while increasing access to the farm.

Beatrice Perron Dahlen, Long Barn co-director, said Broadturn Farm is a "magical classroom" for children.

"There is so much research that tells us how important it is for children to spend time in and connect with the natural world, but it is less and less a part of children's lives," she said.

The camp offers eight, one-week sessions for children ages 4 to 14. Organizers expect about 150 children to attend this year. Some campers return year after year, while others are experiencing a farm for the first time, said Megan Dunn, program co-director. Camp programming centers on a farm-based education approach where children learn about the cyclical nature of agriculture and animal husbandry.

"We know how much the kids love to be out on the farm and that people don't always have access to that type of rich learning environment," Dunn said.

Perron Dahlen said she feels interest in farm-based education is growing in the Greater Portland area, driven largely by people's interest in buying locally grown food and supporting local agriculture. There are also farm camps at Turkey Hill Farm in Cape Elizabeth, Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport and Morris Farm in Wiscasset.

Cheryl Wixson, an organic marketing consultant for Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said she sees an increasing interest in supporting local agriculture, a movement she calls small but exciting. It is "hugely important" for children to have hands-on opportunities to learn about fresh food through programs like the one at Broadturn and develop healthy eating habits, she said.

While campers at Long Barn help with morning and afternoon chores, a big part of their day is having fun while learning about the farm, Dunn said.

This week, campers built a solar oven, made butter and cheese, baked bread and picked strawberries. Campers begin each day by gathering in a circle to stretch and sing traditional camp songs, then spread out across the farm to help with daily chores.

Corey Lorfano, 6, of Gorham, raced out of morning circle to the "small barn" to see the farm's three cows before tending to chickens. As he and his fellow campers petted a young cow, they found a stash of eggs hidden in a pile of hay. Back outside the barn, Corey was eager to feed the chickens -- his favorite farm animals.

"I like that we get to take care of the animals and do chores. It's hard being a farmer," Corey said, adding that he has his own "farm" of tomatoes and potatoes at home.

Carrie Lorfano, Corey's mother, sent her two sons to farm camp so they could learn where their food comes from. The family had visited Broadturn on Open Farm Day, but she said a single day isn't long enough to truly experience farm life.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Cooper Johnson, 7, from Scarborough, moves a load of hay for the chicken coop at the Broadturn Farm. The farm camp gives youngsters a hands-on personal look at agriculture.

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Cameron Jury, 11, from Scarborough, carefully holds a baby duck during the farm camp at Broadturn Farm in Scarborough.


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