Summer on the Farm

Final Report for FNC12-889

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $4,439.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Ana Skemp
Deep Roots Community Farm
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Project Information


Summer on the Farm is a week-long farm-immersion camp held at Deep Roots Community Farm in La Crosse, WI.  All educational programming is led by Ana Skemp, M.S., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, full-time farmer, and Lila Planavsky, M.Ed., teacher at Summit Environmental School.  During programming, children engage in the real daily work of the farm including planting, tending, and harvesting vegetables and caring for the farm animals.  We emphasize seed to table gardening and respectful interactions with the animals. This work is supplemented with art projects and education about the biology of the natural world, in particular conservation biology.  Finally, we offer children free time to explore, ponder, and simply be children in our beautiful rural setting.  Summer on the Farm has provided three summers of free educational programming to 125 elementary-aged children.

This SARE grant has allowed our farm to successfully create and implement on-farm educational programming.  The success of our educational programming has increased recognition of who we are and what we do in the community, and has had the secondary result of allowing us to collect revenue from fee based school field trips, art classes on the farm, an annual educational festival, and paid speaking opportunities. For us, this has been a welcome addition in income above and beyond our traditional agricultural products (beef, vegetables, fruit, flowers). Overall, this experience has helped us create a sustainable business model for our family that allows us to use our talents, support our interests, and provide a valued service for our community.   Finally, this grant was a springboard for several important steps in our farm’s development including non-profit formation and collaboration with local organizations including schools (elementary through university) and other non-profits.  


Our goal in submitting this “Summer on the Farm” proposal was to not only improve the profitability and sustainability of our farm, but also to provide a valuable, relevant resource to our community, and in particular to educate youth about healthy food and sustainable methods to raise that food. The following outlines our motives related to this education.

Obesity has become increasingly prevalent in both adults and children in the United States over the last 40 years and has serious physical, psychological, and social consequences.  Children and adolescents are now developing obesity-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, that were once only seen in adults.  Furthermore, obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and abnormal glucose tolerance (Choudhary & Rooney, 2009). In 2007-2008, an estimated 16.9% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years were obese and 19.6% of children aged 6-11 were obese (Ogden & Carroll, 2010).  

It is widely agreed upon that to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity, children need to eat healthier food, which includes a diet with increased fruits and vegetables, and incorporate more physical activity throughout their day.  While childhood obesity is not caused by a single environmental or behavioral factor, employing a single strategy is unlikely to solve it either.  It is through multiple effective strategies that the environment of children and their behaviors can start to change, which then will make a dramatic difference in the current and future health status of children throughout the United States.  

While significant changes should be made to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and increased levels of physical activity, it has been shown that these can be complex issues to address in today’s fast-paced and convenience oriented environment.  Many efforts to increase both of these foundational behaviors have begun and some notable examples are the new regulations to school lunch menus reflecting the new My Plate dietary guidelines, farm to school initiatives, and local efforts to increase walking and biking to school.  Only 20% of children age 9-13 eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day and research has shown that increasing vegetable intake is more difficult than increasing fruit intake (Bevan, 2012).  One pilot study found that after a 90 minute farm-based sensory educational experience, 59% of fifth graders reported eating something new and 28% reported eating and liking something they had not tried before and did not think they would like (Bevan, 2012).  While additional research needs to be done to confirm these findings, farm-based education remains a viable option for summer programs and schools who do not have the resources, time, or space to keep a school garden.

‘Farm camps’ have begun to be an increasingly popular and successful intervention in increasing both physical activity and in increasing the variety and amounts of fruit and vegetable consumption. Successful ‘farm camp’ programs have begun in partnership with many organizations throughout the country such as Stanford University and the historic Shelburne farms in Vermont.  In one Minnesota based garden program, children were asked about what they liked most about working in a garden all summer, participants said “trying different fruits and vegetables”, “being able to pick fruits and vegetables and eat the same ones [we picked]”, and “I liked that we did it ourselves and we have the pride for it” (Heim, Stang, & Ireland, 2009).

Works Cited

Choudhary, R., & Rooney, B. (2009). Burden of obesity and physical inactivity: A report on obesity and related morbidity and mortality and physical inactivity in La Crosse County.

Heim, S., Stang, J., & Ireland, M. (2009). A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7) 1220-1226.

Ogden, C., & Carroll, M. (2010). Prevalence of Obesity among children and adolescents: United States, trends 1963-1965 through 2007-2008.  

NCHS Health E-Stat. Ogden, C., Lamb, M., Carroll, M., & Flegal, K. (2010). Obesity and socioeconomic status in children and adolescents: United States, 2005-2008.  NCHS Data Brief, 51.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).  (2011).  Overweight and Obesity Statistics. Retrieved from

Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Office of Health Informatics. Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH) data query system,, BRFS Module, accessed 12/5/2012.

Project Objectives:

We set the following goals and performance targets for Summer on the Farm

1.  Families will sign their children up for Summer on the Farm
2.  Families will bring the children they signed up to Summer on the Farm. 
3.  Families will evaluate the quality/success of Summer on the Farm in a positive way.
4.  Summer on the Farm will connect children to healthy food and nature. 
5.  Summer on the Farm will provide children with hands-on farm experiences, including seed to table gardening and animal care.
6.  Children will be more likely to try new fruits and vegetables and will be more likely to report that they like them.  
7.  We will develop curriculum related to connecting children with healthy food and nature that can be used multiple times. 
8.  We will share the methods and information with other organizations and farmers who are interested.  
9.  We will grow our partnership with local universities.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • University of WI La Crosse Community Health and Education Majors
  • Lila Planavsky
  • Ana and Andrew Skemp


Materials and methods:

In 2011, 2012, and 2013, we held a total of 7 Summer on the Farm Sessions for a total of 120 hours of educational programming.  4 of these sessions were 20 hour sessions (4 days, 5 hours per day), 1 of these sessions was a 25 hour session (5 days, 5 hours per day) and 2 sessions were 5 hour sessions (2 days, 2.5 hours per day) and the remaining 5 hours in the budget were provided for the lead teacher to prepare curriculum.  We found that the 4 day sessions were the best both for the participants and for the teachers, and will replicate that model in the future.

 During the sessions the program participants planted, weeded, and harvested in the vegetable gardens and perennial fruit plantings. We explained some of the differences between organic and conventional agriculture. We helped them identify pest and beneficial insects, native plants and flowers, and identified wildlife as we came across it. It was very much a hands-on discovery experience for the children and we let their interests guide somewhat the format of the day. Digging potatoes was a favorite as was planting seeds. We also had tastings of garden produce such as kale, ground cherries, chard, and herbs like basil and lemon balm. After resting, we would go on nature walks in our streams and woods, and engage in a science lesson such as the difference between caterpillars and worms.  Later sessions (those in 2014) emphasized conservation biology, in particular native pollinator decline and things we can do to improve habitat, etc.  We would end the day with a journaling/art activity and finally have unstructured “free time” where they could simply relax and enjoy themselves in our beautiful rural setting.  

The program teachers spent ample time on reflection and self-evaluation and developed a daily schedule and set of lessons that worked very smoothly.  The sessions were low-stress and very enjoyable to teach. We looked forward to each day.  

In 2012 and 2013 we used paper surveys that were emailed to particpants to fill out and return on the first and last day of camp.  In 2014, we switched to online evaluations via survey monkey.  In 2014 we also moved from paper registrations to online registrations at      

Research results and discussion:

1.  Families will sign their children up for Summer on the Farm

This is a truly unique and sought after experience in our area. When we announced our sessions in 2012 and 2013 (via fliers at the Farmer’s Market and on our Facebook page), there was enough interest to fill the sessions in a matter of days.  In 2014, the sessions (offered via our website and advertised on our facebook page) filled within 12 hours.  All sessions had waiting lists. 

2.  Families will bring the children they signed up to Summer on the Farm. 

Because Summer on the Farm was offered free to participants, we decided to require a $50. deposit to hold a child's place in the program, and then refund it after successful completion of the program.  We offered to waive the deposit if it was a financial challenge for a family, and did so for about 25% of families.  Of everyone that registered, five children did not attend.  

3.  Families will evaluate the quality/success of Summer on the Farm in a positive way.

Getting participants to evaluate the programming was one of the most challenging parts of this program.  Only about 50% of families returned the paper surveys and of the 35 families who were sent online surveys for this summer's programs we recevied only 11 responses.  I think this is because people feel little need or interest to evaluate a free program.  If I were to seek evaluations again, I would think about incentivizing it, such as everyone who turned in a survey (anonymous) would receive a basket of vegetables or be entered in a raffle for a kid's gardening basket, for example.  The evaluations we did receive were very positive.  For example, in 2014, 11 out of 11 responders chose "liked a lot, (as opposed to liked, neutral, disliked, or disliked a lot) when asked "How did your child like his/her recent farm camp experience, and 10 out of 11 responders rated the quality of farm camp as "excellent" (as opposed to very good, average, below average, or poor) and 1 out of 11 rated the quality of farm camp as "very good"

In addition to these formal evaluations see below for some of the comments we recevied: 

a) Thank you Ana and Lila! What an amazing week! 
b) It was a wonderful week. Teddy had a great time!! Thanks so much!! 
c) Joy and Fletcher had the GREATEST time!!! Thanks SO much ladies!! 
d) The kids LOVED it......many thanks. 
e) Thank you for the amazing experience you provided…all the children this week at “farm camp.” As a parent, I am always seeking out quality experiences for my girls that will make lasting, positive impressions with a whole lot of fun and learning. By far, this is one of the best experiences (our daughter) has had. 
f) I'd love to see more similar camps at the farm! My city kids learned a great deal about the work involved in growing and harvesting large amounts of healthy food and taking good care of animals.
g) "It's my favorite camp ever" (9 year old)
h) All we heard about last night was that "Farm Camp" should be every day. Thank you Lila, Ana and crew
i) My grandkids ages 5-8 loved their experience. 
j) My boys loved it and can't wait for next year! Thank you for such an awesome experience!!

4.  Summer on the Farm will connect children to healthy food and nature. 
5.  Summer on the Farm will provide children with hands-on farm experiences, including seed to table gardening and animal care.

125 children spent 120 hours outside in the gardens, working with animals, and in nature.  A Home Depot grant allowed us to add a wood-fired pizza oven to the farm in 2013, and a highlight of the 2014 sessions was making pizza with fresh garden produce.  

6.  Children will be more likely to try new fruits and vegetables and will be more likely to report that they like them.

Participants changed their perspective on fresh produce before and after experiencing our program: For example, from our session in 2012, 2 of 13 participants responded yes to the question “Do you like kale?” while 12 of 13 participants responded “yes” after “Summer on the Farm.” Similarly, 5 of 13 participants responded “yes” to the question “Do you like ground cherries” before “Summer on the Farm” while 13 of 13 responded “yes” after “Summer on the Farm.” Thus, the proportion of “Summer on the Farm” participants who like both kale and ground cherries is higher after completing our program (Agresti-Coull binomial confidence interval, p=0.05).  In 2014, we increased the proportion of students in one session who had tried purple beans from 0/24 to 23/24 and the proportion of students who had tried swiss chard 2/24 to 22/24.  23/24 reported yes to "Do you like purple beans?" and 18/24 reported yes to "Do you like swiss chard?"  
We found overall that children who tried fruits first (raspberries, ground cherries, currants) and enjoyed them were more likely to be confident enough to try new vegetables, and that peer pressure worked well to encourage children to try new vegetables, i.e. if a couple of chidlren tried mint eventually they would all get brave enough to try it.  To encourage this continued confidence to eat new foods and vegetables, we sent participants home with bags of produce they helped harvest.  In future sessions, we hope to send participants home with not only boxes of food but also family friendly recipes and cooking tips.   
7.  We will develop curriculum related to connecting children with healthy food and nature that can be used multiple times. 

We have developed many activities and lessons that work well and are happy to share these with anyone interested.  Some examples are daily journaling activities, lessons on pollination biology, etc. 

8.  We will share the methods and information with other organizations and farmers who are interested. 

We have shared our Summer on the Farm experience on our website and on facebook.  Summer on the Farm was featured in an article in Coulee Region Women magazine in 2014.  In Summer 2014 we shared advice with another local farmer wanting input on her farm camp sessions and hosted a Land Stewardship Project's Farm Tour which focused on our farm's educational programming including Summer on the Farm.  In Fall 2014, we shared information about Summer on the Farm during a guest lecture at the University of WI, La Crosse's Introduction to Environmental Studies class.  

9.  We will grow our partnership with local universities.  

University of WI La Crosse Community Health Education professors and students helped us vision educational programming, hold a trial session (Diggin at Deep Roots) and then helped us write this Summer on the Farm grant proposal, of which their volunteer labor was an important part.  Since this initial semester of collaboration, we have hosted independent study and internship students, held multiple Eta Sigma Gamma (Community Health Education Honor Society) volunteer days, written two more successful grants, and worked together to develop and lead Summer on the Farm programming.  We are excited that this partnership has grown and are in conversation with other departments and universities to replicate this farm/university connection.  

Impact of Results/Outcomes

1.  Our Summer on the Farm grant has helped us receive other grants including a Youth Gardening Grant funded by Home Depot (pizza oven) and a Food Animal Concerns Trust animal welfare grant.  

2.  Summer on the Farm was written up in Coulee Region Women's Magazine.
3.  We have received invitations to speak about our programming at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, Riverside Corporate Wellness, and at Boy and Girl Scout events.  

4. We were invited to host a Land Stewardship Project's farm tour highlighting our educational programming, and to share the path our farm has taken at a LSP Farm Dreams workshop

5. We have forged ongoing partnerships with local schools including Coulee Montessori Middle School and are excited about new opportunities that are scheduled to begin in 2015.  

6.  We have submitted and received our 501c3 non-profit status under which future Summer on the Farm sessions will be held.  

7.  We have developed and successfully held two festivals (Fall Festival on the Farm) in 2013 and 2014 that drew over 1,000 people to our farm for activities centered around education about connecting children with healthy food and nature.  This year's festival raised funds for need-based scholarships for Summer on the Farm 2015. 

8.  Our educational programming has greatly increased the number of people who know who we are and what we do.  The sales of our traditional agricultural products (beef, fruits and vegetables, flowers) have increased accordingly.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

In addition to the oureach already listed, Summer on the Farm will be presented at a national conference in 2015, the details of which are below: 

A University and Non Profit Partnership in Grants: An Evaluation of the Funding and Programming at Deep Roots Community Farm in Collaboration with Health Education Grant Writing Classes.  (Rees, Skemp, Whitney, Cedergren) Submitted to the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) Annual Meeting, April, 2015--Portland, OR


This poster describes the evaluation of a partnership between a university health education department (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse) and a non profit organization (Deep Roots Community Farm-DRCF, d.b.a. "Grow, La Crosse, Inc.") in Wisconsin. This partnership enhances the grant development experiences for students enrolled in a community and public health education course.   The overconsumption of fast and packaged foods is connected to the increasing prevalence of obesity in the United States, along with other numerous health issues. About one-third of U.S. adults are obese and approximately 17% of all U.S. children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese (CDC, 2011). Obesity increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers. 


Programs at the state and national level, such as Farm to School, were developed to address nutritional and health issues. These programs focus on learning styles that bring the kids out of the classroom, engaging them in hands-on activities. Although programs have shown positive results, they do not expose the children to the source of their food; the farm. This collaboration, which began in Fall 2011, provides health education students with basic and complex principles of grantsmanship and project development.  Deep Roots Community Farm received funding over four grant proposals. Deep Roots subsequently hosted several school groups, including an art class from Three Rivers Waldorf School, a class from the School of Technology and Art in La Crosse, a group of 75+ children from the local YMCA Surround Care called, “Digging at Deep Roots,”; implemented a wood fired oven and farming materials for cattle and gardens; and “Seasons on the Farm” camps for children and families. 

Through partnership, health students identify potential funding sources, conduct literature reviews, and complete letters of intent and proposals for a variety of “real-life” health interventions and projects. Additionally, Health Education students assist in the implementation and evaluation of the projects at Deep Roots. These valuable grantsmanship and health education skills are an asset for the students’ future employment in public health and non-profit sectors. Deep Roots Community Farm benefits from this collaboration by building its capacity to provide additional outreach and services through grant funding. This poster describes this collaboration, illustrates health education competencies, and highlights the evaluation of the programming made possible by the grantsmanship process. 


This poster describes community based partnerships that allow professional preparation for health education students working with non profit organizations. This is an evaluation of the grantsmanship and collaborative implementation of nutrition education, sustainable farming strategies, and programing for children, schools, families to foster community, increase farm to table exposure, and provide educational opportunities to families and children that may not have access. Through partnership, health students identify potential funding sources, conduct literature reviews, and complete letters of intent and proposals for a variety of “real-life” health interventions. Valuable grantsmanship and health education skills are assets for future employment in public health and non-profit sectors. The non profit organization benefits from this collaboration by building its capacity to provide additional outreach and services through grant funding.


1. participants will be able to describe at least two benefits of a community-based grant collaborative between university/college public health programs and non profit organizations. 


2. participants will be able to illustrate the key resources and tenants of setting up a community based partnership for funding and implementation processes. 


3. participants will be able to propose and formulate evaluation approaches to working with collaborative efforts that enhance the health of children and families.

Project Outcomes


Potential Contributions

Our project has: 

1.  Provided an innovative example of a way to increase farm income above and beyond sales of traditional agricultural products. 

2.  Enhanced my family's life by providing a source of income that is diversified and sustainable. 

3.  Helped educate future educators, especially those Community Health Education students who helped teach our Summer on the Farm sessions. 

4.  Provided a desirable and appreciated opportunity for youth in our community.  

5.  Connected area youth to healthy food and nature.

Future Recommendations

As with any farm enterprise, educational programming should be added to a farm's offerings in a series of small steps that build upon success.  As we like to say, "Dream big and start small."

We would be happy to answer any questions about our educational farm programming and provide mentoring in that capacity. We can be reached at [email protected] or messaged on facebook: Deep Roots Community Farm.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.