Believe it or not, summer is just around the corner. Before long school will be out and parents will be searching for ways to keep their sanity while keeping their kids occupied. Fortunately, there are some wonderful summer camps that can help you and your kids pass the long summer days ahead.
Some of the most popular and fun options are local farm and cooking camps that provide hands-on experience with sustainable, organic food production, and the means to make this food into fabulous dishes the whole family will enjoy.
I've researched “farm to table”-type camps in Novato and beyond. In my opinion, the following programs are the best out there. These camps fill up fast so consider enrolling soon to reserve your space.
First, the farm-oriented camps:
Farm Girl Nursery off Indian Valley Road in Novato will be offering day farm camps geared at children ages 6 to 12 starting late June. Camps will be outdoors and offer kids a flavor for daily life on the farm. Activities will include animal care, organic gardening and harvesting, cooking basic recipes using fresh produce, art projects, zip-lining and rope courses. Special guest visitors may include bee-keepers, chefs, bakers, story-tellers and more. NO ELECTRONICS ALLOWED! For more information or to sign up for a day camp, contact Lisa Marvier at 415-730-6917 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Devil's Gulch Ranch located in Nicasio offers summer day camps focusing on connecting children with nature, outdoor recreation, and our ancestral past in an agricultural setting. They partner with Marin YMCA to offer week long camp programs designed to teach children 6-15 the skills to produce food and live sustainably. Devil's Gulch Ranch is a working ranch operation located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area that produces meat for high end restaurants and local farmers' markets. Campers experience rural farm life through activities like animal care, gardening, free play, primitive arts and crafts (basket weaving, felting, ceramics, etc.), and recreational activities like archery, swimming, hiking, and rappelling. Prices for each week of camp run $365 for YMCA members and $405 for non-members. For registration or more detailed information on their programs, visit www.DGES.org, or call 415-662-1099.
Slide Ranch, off Shoreline Highway near Muir Beach, offers camps for kids 5-12 with an educational emphasis based on firsthand experience and exploration. Campers participate in farm routines and care-taking of plants and animals. Activities include milking goats, feeding chickens and collecting eggs, carding and spinning wool from sheep, nature-based crafts, hiking, tide-pooling, and garden cultivation including planting, composting, harvesting, and cooking with organic produce. They also offer a special Junior Camp Counselor program for students 13-18 who are interested in building leadership skills while inspiring younger campers. Camp culminates with a special ranch farmers market that campers organize and share with their families. Prices range from $395 to $420 per week per child depending on the program selected. Scholarships are available. Several weeks have already sold out so don't delay! For camp dates and registration information, visit their website at www.slideranch.org/programs/camp.html.
Windrush Farm in West Petaluma offers weekly, four-day camp sessions for kids 7-12 on their 26-acre farm. Campers experience outdoor farm life, learning to care for ranch animals and working in the vegetable gardens. Kids discover first-hand where their food comes from! They will explore the pond, craft farm art, work with wool, and make "barn shaking music." Each Thursday, camps culminate with home-made pizza baked in the wood-burning outdoor oven. Camps run from early June through early August. Cost is $235 per week. Contact Mimi at 707-364-9929 for more information, or visit www.windrushfarm.wordpress.com.
The following cooking camps focus on building 'kitchen confidence" while teaching simple recipes that showcase locally sourced, seasonal ingredients:
Pine Point Cooking School: This Sausalito based program features four day cooking camps for kids entering fifth through 10th grade, with an emphasis on preparing local, organic produce, dairy, poultry, and sustainable seafood. Chef Adrianna Dinihanian's Mediterranean style cuisine focuses on eating seasonally, and with pleasure (like the Italians and French). Class size is purposely small to allow for individual attention with lots of hands-on training in kitchen basics. Students will cook together, take a field trip to the Thursday morning Marin County Farmers' Market, and more. Tuition for one week is $500 per child. For more information or to register, visit www.pinepointcooking.com or call 415-332-4352.
Operation C.H.E.F. in San Rafael is geared to kids ages 9-16. Each five-day camp session offers nutrition-based cooking classes held in a commercial teaching kitchen. Camp C.H.E.F uses fresh organic produce and animal protein sourced, when possible, from local farmers' markets. Students learn expert knife skills and cooking techniques from professional chefs, how to make healthy eating choices, and develop confidence to prepare healthy, delicious meals for their family and friends. Sign up for a week-long culinary adventure at Operation C.H.E.F. this summer by visiting www.operationchef.com. Cost is $495 per child per week.