Midway Farms is on Highway 20, a good deal closer to Albany than Corvallis, but worth the trip from either direction. For several years, farmer Cynthia has been running a Farm Experience Day Camp for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Students get to see how a farm operates, learn where their food comes from, and take part in farm work.
Cynthia used to host field trips from schools, but she felt frustrated by how little children could absorb by simply taking a two-hour tour. She wished she could give kids a chance to actually do the work the farm requires—to literally get their hands dirty. So she created the Farm Experience Day Camp.
She tries to make it a real farm experience, providing opportunities to collect eggs from nest boxes, feed livestock, and harvest crops. She has, for instance, arranged for hay to be put up in smaller 45-pound bales which two small children or one large one can easily manage.
Another benefit of attending the camp is that children get to see how the animals that provide their food are treated, and have the opportunity to think about how they would like their food to be produced. If the cramped and miserable conditions of corporate-owned factory farms are never discussed, they will never question how appropriate it is to confine a baby animal in a tiny cage and never let it see the sky.
Typically, there are four one-week camps in a year. Some children come for multiple camps in one year. The basics are the same, but no two farm experience camps are alike. The mix of students changes and the farm changes as the season progresses, with different fruits ripening and different jobs to be done.
The average camp includes children as young as five and as old as 12. Teenagers, in Cynthia’s experience, don’t take to the farm camp as well. They see it merely as extra work, rather than a lesson, and they tend to be tired of lessons and want to avoid them. This is often seen as kids becoming bored with learning. Cynthia thinks that it’s rather that they get bored with trying to learn and not succeeding, and with school activities that provide only an illusion of success.
“You don’t need to make kids feel like they’re succeeding when they’re not,” she said. “You can give them something where they actually can succeed.”
A camp usually includes a mix of new students and kids who attended in previous years. Returning students are liable not to have been in the same group, which creates new opportunities for the children to teach one another.
With three adults and a maximum of 15 children, the Midway Farms hands can provide more individual attention than a classroom teacher can, which makes Farm Experience Camp both more educational and safer than a simple field trip.
As we go to press, there are still openings for the August camp. Call Cynthia at 541-740-6141 to confirm.
By John M. Burt