A Farm Camp for Children

Not content to leave Detroit and live on their own homestead, the authors decided to establish a farm camp so urban kids could get a rural education.

| November/December 1979

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    A typical day at Taproot Farm Camp: Tom supervises a group of youngsters loading a seed spreader.

  • 060-farm-camp.jpg

A few years ago, my husband Tom and I left the rat race of urban Detroit to start an organic farmstead situated a full 180 miles west of that Michigan metropolis. We constructed a new barn, replenished the soil with green—and animal—manure, started raising both livestock and produce (our cash crops include beef cattle, sheep, pigs, hay, grapes, strawberries, asparagus, and a few "ordinary" vegetables), and in general tried to live in harmony with the land around us.

Tom was proud of our hard-working outdoor ways, but he wasn't content with 'em; he kept thinking back to the children he'd been teaching in Detroit. And the more he thought about those young folk—about the television they watched, the processed food they ate, and the noisy violence of the world they lived in—the more he wanted to share our new rural life with some school-age urban children.

Well, Tom Breznau finally decided that he just wasn't willing to "bury his head in organic garden soil," so he went into Detroit and approached the staff of Taproot (a private, inner-city elementary school) with a proposition: Would they be willing to help support a farm camp as part of the school's ongoing curriculum?

The educators were enthusiastic (to say the least), and before long a deal was struck and the Taproot Farm Camp was formed. Tom and I began that first year of TFC with three five-day programs, but those sessions were such rousing successes that we had to expand. We now run seven week-long camps every year: three in the fall, one in the winter, and three in the spring.

A Week at Camp

A typical week at Taproot Farm Camp starts around lunchtime on Monday when a "chauffeuring" parent, one teacher—who'll stay through the week—and a dozen children complete their drive out from the big city. After everyone enjoys a hearty and healthful repast (one seven-year-old described the camp diet as "whole wheat everything"), Tom takes the youngsters out for a hayride and a tour of the farm.

Next comes sign-up time. My husband and I both believe in hard work and firm limits, though set within an atmosphere of love and fun. So we expect the young campers to help with the chores of an ongoing farm operation, but we also provide a lot of supportive understanding for tots with anxious feelings and plenty of recreation time for all the youngsters. The children get their first taste of the work side of farm life when they're faced with the "opening day" sign-up sheet. Each child is expected to help cook, clean up, and do morning and evening chores.

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