At Treetops the farm-to-table cycle begins right here on our own land.
Each day, campers collect about 75 eggs for the kitchens and help to harvest some of the tens of thousands of pounds of veggies, greens, herbs, berries, and wild edibles grown on our property. Through cultivating, weeding, and harvesting, Treetops campers help provide the food that sustains our community.
While our production gardens provide food for camp-wide meals, the Children’s Garden enables campers to explore all the practices of the farm-to-table cycle: planting, harvesting, cooking, and composting.
Prior to planting, campers learn to prep the garden beds by weeding, leveling, and amending the soil with compost. Then they take part in a variety of planting activities: transplanting from the greenhouse to the production beds one of our many successions of lettuce, or seeding radishes into a small raised bed in the Children’s Garden, or planting a mix of vegetables for our local food pantry.
After much time spent planting, weeding, and watering, both campers and counselors are more than happy to help with harvesting. In the early morning, a small group of campers meets in the garden to harvest a variety of vegetables for the day’s meals. When eating pesto pasta at dinner, campers make connections to the basil harvested that morning.
Children continue the cycle of farm-to-table in the camper kitchen, an increasingly popular place. Here campers create jams, salsa, pesto, cheese, butter, dressings, and much more—all using ingredients picked fresh from the gardens. Additional cooking opportunities come from the outdoor grill and wood-fired ovens. From a stir fry of carrots, onions, peppers, and kale to a strawberry rhubarb cobbler or a pizza topped with fresh tomato sauce, campers enjoy the fruits of their labor.
At Treetops, nothing is wasted. At each meal campers separate their food scraps into pig food and compost buckets. As part of our afternoon work jobs, a group of campers and adults collects the food scraps and processes them in our compost bays. In the Children’s Garden, a smaller-scale compost bin helps teach campers about the nutrient cycle involved in composting. As campers work to turn their food scraps into food for the soil, they begin to understand the story of their food as an interconnected cycle.
Beyond the Table
Integrating farm and garden activities into other program areas, notably our crafts, is a longstanding Treetops tradition. For instance, campers might:
- make cutting boards or rustic stools in the woodshop
- sew pockets on cooking aprons for the camper kitchen
- hang in the Children’s Garden flags of colorful vegetables felted from wool.
Children also invent their own ways of integrating the farm and garden into their activities:
- picking flowers for the tables
- decorating napkins with vegetable stencils
- making ceramic napkin rings adorned with barnyard animals.
The possibilities are virtually limitless.