Summer camps that focus on agriculture are a great way to ensure that kids learn to appreciate this crucial field. / Photo by Julia Moss
Camp for kids? School is out. Kids are restless. It’s time for summer camp! This time of year, farms across the country – especially in the nation’s rural areas – use the summer break from school as an opportunity to turn their fields into classrooms.
Nothing against archery, swimming, canoeing, or arts and crafts. But there’s just something about getting your hands in the soil that can be much more rewarding (and educational).
The summer months provide some of the best moments for learning on a farm. Planting begins in many Florida areas; at others, many crops are ready to harvest. Calves and other livestock are born at ranches, providing kids with the chance to learn about animal husbandry.
Usually set against the backdrop of a beautiful ranch or working farm, agricultural summer camps give children the chance to engage with the outdoors in a noncompetitive atmosphere. They can learn valuable skills, from horseback riding and milking a cow to shearing sheep and planting or harvesting crops.
Here is a short list of Florida-based farming summer camps.
Happy Acres Ranch
7117 Crane Ave., Jacksonville
Happy Acres Ranch is a fully accredited preschool and summer camp, located on 10 acres covered by ancient live oak trees and bordering the ecologically sensitive Silversmith Creek.
Family-owned and -operated since 1953, the relaxed, country atmosphere provides a scenic backdrop where teachers and staff lead children on an adventure with outdoor programs that include swimming, ecology and nature tours, arts and crafts, fishing, and horseback riding.
Prices range from $165 to $170 per camper. The camp operates from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program is divided into 10 weeks; each week has a different theme, with special events and new activities.
Programs are offered to children from preschool age to 15 years. A special Leadership Camp, for children from fifth grade to 13 years, provides training in basic survival skills, team-building, fire-building, cooking, sewing, building a tree house, nature education, farming, boating safety, and more.
Camp Ground Floor Farm
100 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Stuart
Camp Ground Floor Farm is a weeklong camp that’s all about food, fun, and art. Expect an active and hands-on week, with activities that range from gardening and cooking to arts and crafts, as well as educational seminars on small-plot-intensive and permaculture farming techniques.
Highlights include making homemade pizza and popsicles, learning about Florida’s native landscape, planting seeds, and caring for growing plants.
Ground Floor Farm is known for growing a variety of heirloom, native, and ecologically appropriate crops – including vegetables, fruits, and herbs – that are also for sale directly to the community.
The camp is run by Ground Floor Farm co-owners Micah Hartman and Jackie Vitale, both are first-aid and child-CPR certified. The session runs July 25-29, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and children 5 to 8 are welcome. Space is limited to 15 campers.
Florida Agricultural Museum Fun on the Farm Summer Camp
7900 Old Kings Road N., Palm Coast
Does your child dream of becoming a farmer? The junior-farmer summer camp program at the Florida Agricultural Museum might be the perfect fit. Here, campers learn everything from daily farm life and forestry to Florida history and farming techniques. Day-to-day activities include arts and crafts, tending to farm animals, learning about Florida fauna, and hands-on farming.
Camp is open to children 5 to 10 years, and the fee is $150 per camper, with a $25 materials fee. Each junior farmer must provide his or her own lunch, water, and snacks, as well as sunscreen and bug spray.
Camp hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The remaining session is July 12-14.
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Camp
6942 W. Comanche Ave., Tampa
Sweetwater Community Farm was established in 1995 as a nonprofit, community-supported organic farm and environmental education center. Located in Tampa on 6 acres of suburban property along Sweetwater Creek, the farm’s field trips give children an opportunity to engage in activities designed to educate them on the importance of sustainable living.
Daytime field trips are available at $10 per child, and typically last two to three hours.
Nicole Danna has been reporting on food, spirits, and agriculture for South Florida residents for five years. She’s been reporting on food-related topics for the past decade for publications such as Manhattan’s New York Moves and Boulder-based Colorado Daily.