Veryl Switzer/KSU Agriculture Camp - Dining @ The Farmer's Table

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2013: $1,984.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Manager:
JohnElla Holmes
Nicodemus Educational Camps


  • Agronomic: wheat
  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: cucurbits, onions, peas (culinary), radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips


  • Crop Production: no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, urban/rural integration, community services

    Proposal abstract:


    Nicodemus Educational Camps - actively offer opportunities for youth to discover food, nature, gardening, and agriculture majors and careers. We expose urban youth to farming (crop and animal)practices, community and private gardens (also organic), safe and sustainable gardening practices, healthy (eating and exercising) choices and good citizenship.

    We encourage youth to be involved in the community garden through assisting in locating community gardens, farmers’ markets, school program gardens, or taking a visit to one of the area farms. Partnering with local gardening experts, Nicodemus Camps acts as an agent in distributing community gardening knowledge to youth of diverse economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.

    During the one week residential camp, youth will also be exposed to fruits and vegetables they may not incorporate into their daily eating choices and will learn how to make simple dishes using the "new" vegetables. A trained chef will demonstrate several uses of vegetables such as eggplant, squash, tomatoes, etc. The camp will culminate with a dinner in the field in Nicodemus, KS. Campers will participate in roasting a pig and eating vegetables they were able to harvest from the Nicodemus garden. Transportation will be provided so parents can join their camper.

    The age range of the young people involved in the project is 5th grade- 10th grade. Of these, 35 will attend camp and 2000 will receive newsletters


    Pre-Camp: Urban low income youth apply to attend camp and scholarships are awarded in April. Following the awards, the schoolwhich the youth attends receives a spring camp newsletter for each student. A USB drive is provided with a video of spring planting, Dr. Phillips' organic garden and harvest news. The newsletter is filled with games, garden and nutrition tips and pictorial of camp activities. Five schools will be provided with Nicodemus Pancake Mix and a Nicodemus farmer volunteers to come and lecture at the school about the process of growing and milling wheat to make a pancake mix.

    Camp: In June the campers come to Kansas State University (KSU) for two days and live in the dorms.

    Day one: tours of the farms (crop and dairy), grain, milling and bakery science departments and facilities. Professors and graduate students lead the tours and lectures. They have ice cream from Call Hall (made on campus) and meet Coach Bill Snyder. They go swimming and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) students plan all 4-H activities and assignments. Preassessment survey is given.

    Day two: Visit and work in the Manhattan community garden, East Side Gardens and Market sponsors a farmers’ market, campers get $5 to spend. Tour the Flint Hills Discovery Center and Wabaunsee Underground Railroad. KSU sponsor a ropes course challenge and recreation time.

    Day three: In Nicodemus Kansas they are taken to the wheat field to experience harvest, learn about "notill" farming techniques, work in the community garden and also pick vegetables that are used for themeals. Graham County Extension Agent teaches the diet and nutrition curriculum. Farming expert GaryAlexander works with the campers in the garden. He also provides a wheat milling demonstration. Theflour is used to make pizza dough for game night (horseshoes, stick ball and checkers) dinner. Thecampers go horseback riding, swimming; tour a cave dugout, and 4-H projects.

    Day four: Webster State Park sponsors fishing and hiking clinics. The remainder of the day is working with the garden curriculum and preparing for Dining @ the Farmer's Table for the evening. Transportation is provided so parents can join their youth for the event. Campers help with the pig roast, setting the table in the field, working with Chef to make several dishes with our "unusual" vegetables.

    We expose the youth to proper table manners and etiquette and the way families used to eat together.

    Day five: USDAD-NRCS sponsors the Stream Trailer and Raena's landscaping does a tree planting workshop -- campers plant trees. 4-H projects are presented and awards are provided. On their way home the youth are given a reusable bag and a coupon for purchases at their local farmer's market. Post assessment survey is given.

    Post Camp: Campers and their families are sent results of the survey, a fall newsletter and invited to join us at the State Fair in Hutchinson, KS. College of Agriculture sponsors a 15-passender van.


    The Nicodemus Educational Camps was designed to expose urban low-income youth to agriculture. According to data reported by the MANRRS organization (2011), 73 .3% of students grades K-12 have never been to a vegetable garden or farm and 62% have never been to a farmers’ market. Our goals are to educate youth about safe, sustainable and affordable gardening, different types of gardens (organic, container, window, herb, etc.), farming (crop, animals and harvest), farmers’ markets and where are they located in their community, the different types of vegetables grown in Kansas, how to mill wheat, what does majoring in grain, mill or bakery science mean, and what kind of careers are there in agriculture.

    Lesson plans, activities, lectures, tours, cooking sessions, gardening, etc. has been developed to help campers learn to relate healthy agricultural practices to healthy eating habits, as they use farm/garden produce to prepare plant-based, youth-friendly meals. Campers work with an Agronomist to learn sustainable agriculture methods to ultimately use this information to plan and maintain a home garden. During the intense week residential camp, activities culminate with the Dining @ the Farmer's Table dinner, which is planned entirely by the campers and prepared by a chef.


    Campers are able to take their new-found knowledge back and apply it at home. Skills learned from the garden curriculum will allow the campers to maintain or support a window/container or community garden. We help our campers find community gardens and farmers’ markets in their areas. The simple meals prepared with "new" or "unusual" vegetables will be something that they, or with the help of parent/guardians, can make at home for their family.

    The camp exposes them to ways to connect with their community and continue healthy habits. In 2012 we had four campers make a deal with farmers at their farmers’ market. They helped unload and set up and they received a reusable bag full of produce in exchange. According to our assessment survey 30% of our campers maintain at least a window herb garden or use tomatoes and peppers from their container garden or share with neighbors.

    Partnership for Produce (PFP)- In Manhattan, Topeka, Salina, Hill City, and Nicodemus, KS, we have created a partnership with members of the community garden and they provide produce from those plots to single parent families. We plan to identify new community gardens in campers’ hometowns and create partnerships.


    Dr. Zelia Wiley, Dean of Diversity organizes all the College of Agriculture tours, professors, lectures, County Extension agent, graduate students and undergraduate student peer mentors. Dr. Wiley coordinates the assessment pre/post survey. We also model the KSU Extension Youth Program curriculum and program- Urban Gardens and the Jr. Master Gardener Curricula utilized by the KSU 4-H.

    Dr. Myra Gordon, Associate Provost helps to host our campers in the residence halls.

    Kansas Black Farmers Association provides all farm experts, equipment shows, gardening and milling demonstrations, planting and videos for website.

    USDA NRCS - has a cooperative agreement with us to provide sustainable conservation personnel, training, youth transportation expenses and tree planting materials.

    Barbara Norman- Little Kids Garden model

    The Caroline Piene Foundation -provides scholarships for 10 youth from the Manhattan, KS school district to attend the camp.

    Campus Bookstore - provides t-shirts, gloves etc. for the planting day

    Coach Bill Snyder- provides a motivational talk and tour of the football facilities. He has done this each year since the first camp in 2009! They also provide giveaways, etc. for the campers.

    Chef Willie Horne - Certified Chef

    Farmers Gil and Gary Alexander- Nicodemus, KS

    Dr. Anne Phillips- Manhattan Community Gardens

    Rhona Driling - Graphic/Web Designer


    Youth Educators - we plan to share the newsletter and survey results with all interested parties and partners. The regional office will also have copies available. We have also joined the Kansas

    Environmental Education Conference (KEEC) and presented at the annual conference in October. We shared our results with conference attendees. We are also on Facebook, twitter and we have a website.

    Community and Schools - will receive a copy of the newsletter and brochure. The founder and board of directors have been provided organization information and we are presently scheduled to meet with organizations. Per the Caroline Peine Foundation regulations for funding, we are required to have the donation and information about the camp in the local newspaper. We also announced the award in the KState Collegian, Hill City Times, and Manhattan Mercury. We are scheduled to appear on local television news shows to discuss the camp and fundraising.

    Dr. Zelia Wiley and I are presently working on research to assess the extent to which school aged students acquire knowledge and shift their attitudes as a result of participation in an agricultural camp. We hope to have our findings under peer review by spring 2013.

    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.