KIRKLAND – Area schoolchildren got their hands dirty Wednesday learning about insects, composting and the role worms play in sustainable food production during the kickoff of a day camp run by the DeKalb County Community Gardens.
The first of a two-day Sustainable Food Safari Camp began at DCCG’s Walnut Grove Vocational Farm, 33600 Pearl St., Kirkland. Campers ages 11-15 learned about composting, vermiculture and beneficial insects before boarding a bus to Klein’s Farm & Garden Market, in Elgin and the Milk House in Pingree Grove for private tours and sampling at each location.
“This is the second year that we’ve done the sustainable food safari camp,” said Jackie DiNatale, associate director of DeKalb County Community Gardens. She said the camp is made possible by a grant through the Sustainable Research and Education federal program.
“SARE, it’s an agricultural grant to get kids out on the farm and see what’s happening,” DiNatale said.
The SARE program, which operates in four regions, offers competitive grants and education program funding throughout the country.
Illinois is included in the North Central region. The North Central sustainable agriculture research and education strengthens communities, increases producers’ profitability, and improves the environment through grants and education.
During the first stop at Walnut Grove, DiNatale said not only did students learn about vermiculture, and composting, but they also participated in a beneficial bug hunt during which they identified bugs that are good for plants. Participants also took part in a garden vegetable scavenger hunt by solving riddles.
Jordan Hargrave, 12, of Kirkland, said she liked to learn about the different types of vegetables. While on the scavenger hunt for those vegetables, Jordans’ sister, Hope Hargrave, 14, found one of the beneficial bugs that was included on the farm bug hunt, a praying mantis blending in among the vegetables.
One of seven other campers, Hunter Belanger, 14, of Esmond, said he joined the day camp because he wanted to learn more about soil, and enjoys learning about farm culture.
As 9:45 a.m. approached, the campers gathered near the entrance and boarded a bus provided by Voluntary Action Center. The day’s itinerary included a trip to Klein’s Farm & Garden Market in Elgin, and The Milk House in Pingree Grove for private tours and samplings at each location.
At Klein’s, campers learned about seasonal vegetables and sustainable weed management. At The Milk House, owners Clint and Brook Carey showed campers how to incorporate fresh local produce into ice cream flavors.
Day two of the camp on Thursday will be held at DCCG’s Genoa Area Community Food Hub, 415 W. Main St. in Genoa, where area chef and farmer, Bryan Flower, will work with students on basic kitchen skills and prepare fresh produce gathered Wednesday at Klein’s Farm & Garden Market.