Ag Book Inspires Day Camp Theme
Each spring Citrus County Extension volunteers participate in Florida Agriculture Literacy Day, sponsored by Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc., which involves reading a book about Florida agriculture to local elementary students. In the spring of 2015 several volunteers were surprised and concerned that a lot of students were not familiar with the agriculture in their own county. This motivated the planning of the first “Filling Florida Forks” 4-H summer day camp.
Borrowing from the 2015 Agricultural Literacy Day book “Drive Through Florida,” members of the Citrus County Agricultural Alliance, UF/IFAS Citrus County Extension Agents and Staff, 4-H volunteers, 4-H Teen Healthy Living Ambassadors, local growers, producers, and merchants worked together to organize the day camp as a tour of Citrus County’s agricultural resources. The tour stops included local farms that raise cattle and grow blueberries, strawberries and citrus. A nursery, a produce stand, a dairy, and the Withlacoochee State Forest were also a part of the drive through Citrus County.
On the farms the campers learned about the history of cattle in Florida and different breeds of cattle. They also toured strawberry and blueberry fields, and were invited to fill their buckets with fresh blueberries. While at the nursery the campers learned about hydroponic gardening, and planted tomato plants. A tour of a local dairy introduced campers to sustainability practices such as composting waste materials, channeling wastewater, capturing and redirecting nutrients and reducing water consumption.
Foresters at Tillis Hills in the Withlacoochee State Forest spoke with the campers about the forestry industry, sustainable forestry and the need for planting and harvesting trees to maintain healthy forests. One of the unique experiences of this visit included learning how to harvest sabal palm trees and making swamp cabbage, a Florida pioneer delicacy.
After a week of touring and learning about local agriculture, campers got to fill their forks on the last day. The campers were taught food prep skills and helped make tacos, homemade salsa and chips, sweet potato fries and blueberry yogurt parfaits. Family members were invited to dine on the lunch with the campers.
It took a lot of people to make it happen, but those involved believe the Filling Florida Forks day camp was a great success. Many of the campers reported through post surveys that the camp activities helped them increase their knowledge of agricultural careers, food harvesting, preparing healthy foods, and how to talk to others about agriculture. They also reported that they will be able to share what they learned with others, and felt a sense of belonging throughout the week of camp.
Faculty and staff members with the UF/IFAS Citrus County Extension are aware of a growing need for knowledgeable citizens to support food security and sustainability initiatives. They hope that investing time and resources into educating youth about local, regional and national agricultural industries can encourage them to pursue careers in agricultural production and research. They also hope youth campers and their families were able to develop an increased awareness and appreciation of food systems and the environment as a result of participating in this camp.
Would you like to help teach youth about Florida agriculture? Visit http://florida4h.org/programs_/ to learn about Florida 4-H programs and projects designed to teach youth about agriculture and how you can get involved.
Written By: Ben Knowles and Marnie Ward