By Allison Martin, Environmental Educator, Valencia SWCD
In June 2022, the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in New Mexico hosted a Farm to Table Camp – a week-long summer camp for 22 youth in the district. Planned and implemented with the help of a 2022 Friends of NACD District Grant, the camp introduced participants to the principles of soil health, regenerative agriculture, and nutrition. Each day of the camp presented a different theme to answer the question, “Where does our food come from, and how can we grow our own food to better our health and ecosystem?”
On the first day, campers explored soil health at the 97-acre Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area. On the second day, the campers enjoyed a visit to Rocket Punch Farm, a local vegetable farm, to learn about how to grow food and how healthy food comes from healthy soil. The campers also created their very own pizzas at the farm and cooked them using handmade solar ovens. On day three, the campers visited De Smet Dairy to enjoy ice cream and learn about Sublime Pastures, a local meat farm. Campers were taught about raising healthy animals for meat while interacting with Sublime Pastures’ Kunekune pigs. On day four, the campers visited the Valencia SWCD’s two gardens, El Cerro and Meadow Lake Community Gardens. These gardens are part of a larger program called the East Valencia Urban Gardens Program, funded in part by an NACD Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant. Here, the campers enjoyed a tour of each garden and planted perennial flowers and shrubs to help the garden grow.
On the final day, the campers enjoyed hamburgers they made themselves and learned about all the steps to get food to the table. The campers also shared poster presentations with the parents and brought home the nature journals that they used each day to take notes. The campers also brought home seed starter kits, a variety of seeds to plant at home, and other items to help identify local plants and grow their own healthy food.
Each day’s activities were designed to provide campers hands-on experience with soil and food to teach them how their meals get to their plates. By getting their hands in the dirt with local farmers, the campers got a chance to see the whole picture. They learned how to create healthy gardens at home, educate others about the importance of taking care of our ecosystem, and how growing healthy food leads to a healthy lifestyle.
Partners played a pivotal role in helping to make this camp possible. They volunteered, developed presentations and activities, recruited campers, and conceived and shared ideas to make it happen. Partners for this camp included: The Friends of Whitfield, H2 Academic Solutions, New Mexico National Guard, The Village of Los Lunas, Community Wellness Council, Rocket Punch Farm, De Smet Dairy, The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and Sublime Pastures.
Valencia SWCD is considering continuing to host Farm to Table themed camps in the future if staffing and funding allows. The camp helped cultivate and leverage partnerships with community organizations and experts to provide a platform to tell the story of the important work Valencia SWCD does.