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August 26, 2013

Youthlinks Farm Camp at Headacre Farm

“Who likes vegetables here?” Chef Kerry Altiero of Café Miranda asks a group of campers from Youthlinks. “No one? Well let me tell you something, vegetables just need a little dressing up!” For the first four weeks of July campers entering grades six through eight were invited to Headacre Farm in Owls Head to learn about farming and cooking with Anne Perkins, Deb Donnelly and Kerry Altiero. At Headacre Farm, Anne, Deb and Kerry set out to prove to groups of middle school age campers that the world of organic, local farming is an exciting one with numerous health and environmental benefits.

Anne Perkins of Headacre Farm teaches campers how to transplant seedlings.

Anne Perkins of Headacre Farm teaches campers how to transplant seedlings.

Headacre Farm is a saltwater farm offering vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, and seasonal decorations. Headacre is committed to returning its 17 saltwater acres to sustainable, diversified, and organically certified farming and becoming a vibrant, productive, and responsible member of our local communities. Headacre Farm is operated in partnership with Café Miranda and provides the Rockland restaurant with fresh, organic produce throughout the growing season.

As part of their commitment to community, Anne and Deb approached Youthlinks over the winter about collaborating to create Farm Camp. Each week a group of twelve students would spend their mornings at Headacre farm learning about plant families and organic pest management from Farmer Anne and helping to plant vegetables and weed and water garden beds. With Deb Donnelly campers also made their own barometers to measure atmospheric pressure, planted basil seeds and nasturtium flowers, and made terrariums with recycled bottles and materials found on the farm. Youthlinks’ AmeriCorps members Josie Gates, Sarah Woodman and Kameryn Sanchez worked with campers to plant, maintain and harvest their own garden beds. They were able to monitor the progress of their own vegetables and make decisions about weeding and watering.

On Wednesdays, campers harvested vegetables from the farm and their garden plots to cook a veggie focused lunch with Chef Kerry. While the campers washed produce and chopped greens, Chef Kerry discussed the merits of eating green and eating local. He gave an example about the difference in taste between a tomato shipped from across the country and one grown in a local garden and he also described the global effects that a small, locally grown tomato can have. Because a tomato grown in a farm only a few miles away doesn’t need to be shipped very far at all, it has a smaller carbon footprint than a tomato from across the country.

In the afternoons campers left the farm but continued the outdoor theme and explored local areas such as Mt. Battie in Camden, Lucia Beach at Birch Point State Park, and Lakes Chickawaukee and Megunticook.

On the last day of camp, campers and their families were invited to a family field day at Headacre farm for games and a potluck style dinner. Families competed in tug-of-war and were given a tour of the farm by campers eager to show off the vegetables they took care of. Anne, Deb and Kerry Altiero all joined in the fun and were available to answer questions parents had about camp or organic and local farming practices. “We had an amazing summer,” said Youthlinks’ Program Director Amie Hutchison. “I am so grateful to Headacre Farm and Café Miranda to providing this opportunity to local students.”

Youthlinks is a program of Broadreach Family & Community Services, a non-profit organization that has been serving the children and families of Waldo and Knox Counties since 1983. For more information or to register, please contact Youthlinks: 594-2221 or visit www.youthlinksonline.org.