Farm camps promise wild, woolly experience
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Clara Johnson-Noble and Ula Camastro take two sheep out for feeding time Clara Johnson-Noble and Ula Camastro take two sheep out for feeding time. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT HADLOCK — It’s not your ordinary summer camp.

Sunfield Land For Learning, a Waldorf school that provides instruction for students from kindergarten through eighth grade during the regular school year, is offering several instructional tracks that teach the art and craft of organic farming for people from 4 years old to young adults.

That’s in addition to programs teaching arts like kite- and basketmaking.

“This is an amazing opportunity for kids to learn where food comes from on a tangible level,” said Verity Howe, co-manager of the farm with her husband, Neil.

“We hear it works because parents tell us their kids wouldn’t eat kale, but they will now because they see that Farmer Neil grew it,” she said.

The Sunfield students feed the animals and tend the garden as part of the curriculum. learning how to grow their own food, which increases appreciation of where it originates, said Jude Rubin, summer program coordinator.

“It’s been a mission of Sunfield to offer programming that brings people closer to nature,” Rubin said.

“If we don’t give the kids a chance to be engaged with nature as children, how can we expect them to protect the environment when they become adults?”

The classes have separate tracks for artisans and explorers, offered simultaneously.

Classes are small, comprising eight to 12 children, but the camp’s capacity is 60 to 85 youngsters a day.

Prices for the camps vary.

A program offering four afternoons on the farm is $90. Many of the camps are $160 per week. Others are more.

Rubin said that in the 1800s the school year was designed around summer vacation, so that young people could spend that time helping around the farm.

That has changed even in rural environments, she said, denying children the chance to grow their own veggies and becoming “more engaged and reverent” about the agricultural process.

Contact with the animals is an important part of the educational experience, both for the regular Sunfield classes and the camp kids.

“The kids can have a really intense experience with animals and they don’t have to own them,” Rubin said.

“It’s very empowering.”

Rubin said “tough kids” are also affected by the experience, telling a story about a boy who “had all his psychological armor on” when he started asking questions about one of the rabbits.

Then, he held the rabbit at his chest for five minutes, not saying a word.

“It keeps them out of trouble,” Rubin said about the contact with animals and farms.

“If you have something wholesome to do that is as complex and interesting and beautiful as growing things and being with animals, it’s very engaging and keeps kids away from problems.”

The involvement of children is a two-way street, Verity Howe said.

“The kids make the experience so much more rich,” she said.

“They question us, they challenge us, they confuse us and it’s brilliant.”

For information about the camps, and prices, go to www.sunfieldfarm.org, write info@sunfieldfarm.org or phone 360-385-3658.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 17. 2012 8:18PM
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