Over the course of the summer, we do a great many things on the farm. We plant, and weed, and harvest, and eat; we do a lot of singing and dancing, and goofing around; we make mud, and pickles, and hunt bugs, and run through sprinklers.
We also spend a lot of time talking about important things. We talk about soil, and water, and air; we have long conversations about the environment, climate change, the business of food production and distribution; we try to dig deep, not just into our raised beds, but also into heady philosophical and intellectual issues regarding individual responsibility and how that relates to our stewardship of Planet Earth. The kids are surprisingly amenable to that.
As we go about this, Ivy and I try very hard not to be preachy about complex issues such as GMO’s, world hunger, the politics of the haves and have-nots, and we encourage our campers to express their opinions and attitudes about all of these things. This is, after all, a teaching farm, and one of the main things we try to impart to the children and staff we encounter is that there is something in the neighborhood of six hundred teachers in camp at any given time. That’s important because they all have value.
Last weekend was Supervisor Orientation. It is always a thrill for me to spend time with so many talented and knowledgeable educators whose experience in schools and camps have brought them to a point where they just get it. They understand that camp is about so much more than sports and theater, and chanting in the dining rooms while banging on tables. Camp is about fostering respect and sensitivity, and empathy, and teamwork, and a basic understanding that each of us is responsible for the state of our planet and for every species that inhabits it. Each of us needs to be committed to the well-being of all of us, and every one of us should be given the opportunity to grow and flourish.
One of the pillars of my marriage to Farmer Ivy is rooted in the fact that we have both enjoyed the summer camp experience for all of our lives. This is Ivy’s fourth incarnation at SLC. She was here as a second generation camper in the ’60’s, and later as a counselor. Years after, in the 1980’s she returned as a supervisor, and got to see her own children enjoy SLC. And now, decades later, she is here as the farm counselor and de facto Assistant Farm Director who is ever so responsible for our beautiful farm.
I’ve been going to sleep-away camp since 1953. It was at a camp in Pennsylvania that I met Amy Goldberg who just happens to be a member of the Surprise Lake Camp Board of Directors and who has been a lifelong friend of mine and someone who truly values the magic of camp as much as anyone I know. That’s what camp does. It creates special friendships, instills values, and manufactures memories that last a lifetime.
It is my expectation that this year we will be successful in producing bumper crops of fruits and vegetables for everyone to enjoy. Campers will have a blast and things will happen that affect them for the rest of their lives. But nothing we do will be more important than growing knowledgeable, responsible global citizens who understand that on Spaceship Earth, we are all in it together.
SLC has a long and wonderful tradition of taking kids to camp who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity. This is something that’s more than a hundred years old. But today, in 2016, there are still scores of campers who get to enjoy camp because of our scholarship programs. And thanks to the support of so many families, ardent SLC supporters, like the Henshels, Shmerlers, and Josephsons, among many others, gaggles of children get to go to camp and learn about being better friends, being learned kids, growing up to be responsible adults, and, ultimately, to be global citizens.
That is the power and the magic of camp.
Until next week, Stay Dirty.