Summer on the Farm

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: potatoes, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: melons, apples, berries (other), plums
  • Nuts: hazelnuts
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture


    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.

    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.