Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp at Riveredge Nature Center

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2015: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2017
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Manager:
Sunny Knutson
Riveredge Nature Center


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: youth education
  • Production Systems: permaculture

    Proposal abstract:


    We will work with children ages eight to eleven years old. 

    Our project will involve fifteen summer campers and four to five farmers/rancher including the Riveredge garden manager, several local organic farmers at Wellspring CSA, and one local organic dairy farmer. 

    Project Abstract

    The specific purpose for SARE grant funds is to develop new curriculum for Woodland Harvest: A Community Based Permaculture and Local Foods Project, located on acreage adjacent to Riveredge Nature Center. We will pilot the new curriculum with youth enrolled in a week-long session Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp at Riveredge. During the week, youth will learn about sustainable farming methods through a variety of hands-on activities; visit a local CSA and meet organic farmers; plant, care for and harvest vegetables in the organic garden at Riveredge; learn to cook seasonal vegetables and learn about composting, vermicomposting and soil health.

    Detailed Project Plan and Timeline 

    The Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp at Riveredge Nature Center will immerse a group of fifteen school-age children in the practical aspects of sustainable food production through a wide variety of hands-on, educational experiences. The first day of camp will take place at the Woodland Harvest site, where youth will be introduced to both the concept of and a real-world example of permaculture. On the site, nut trees, fruit trees and companion perennials are planted in a way that mimics the structure, energy flow and nutrient cycling of our regional woodlands. The result is an agriculturally productive, stable and resilient ecosystem requiring minimal human intervention that produces annual harvests of healthful foods while building soil fertility.

    Youth will become familiar with the Woodland Harvest site through an interactive quest that will lead them to different areas and expose them to the wide variety of crops grown on-site. Along the way, they will taste fruits, nuts and seasonal vegetables; meet the chickens and turkeys raised there; discover how the swales help to disperse water across the slopes, slowing its movement and lessening runoff; and visit the hoop house that farmers use to extend the growing season.

    The next day will be spent in the Children’s Organic Garden at Riveredge where youth will gain hands-on experience growing vegetables. The day’s activities will include planting, tending, harvesting and cooking a variety of vegetables. They will learn about the importance of composting and vermicomposting and discover the connection between healthy soil, nutritious vegetables, and our health.

    On the morning of day three, youth will visit the Dobberphul Organic Dairy Farm in the nearby town of Farmington to learn about sustainable dairy farming practices. They will meet Tim Dobberphul, who will show them the many changes he has implemented on his land to make his farming operation more sustainable. He will explain how he treats waste and wastewater on his farm, describe how his farm achieved organic certification and why it is important to him, show the youth one of the pastures where his cattle graze, and explain what is involved in caring for a dairy herd throughout the year. During the two hours the youth will spend at his farm, they will gain a much better understanding about organic dairy farming and how soil, plants, and animals work together on a healthy farm. In the afternoon, youth will visit Wellspring CSA, a local certified organic farm whose mission is to inspire and teach people to grow, prepare and eat healthy food. They will meet several farmers who will discuss why they chose organic farming as a career and explain what they do on the farm over the course of the year. Youth will participate in an in-depth tour of the farm, greenhouse and fields; try seasonal fruits and vegetables; learn organic growing principles and what the farmers’ role is on the farm. In addition, they will practice hands-on farming and gardening related activities under the guidance of Wellspring’s farmers.

    On day four, youth will spend most of the day planting, tending and harvesting vegetables in the organic garden at Riveredge. They will visit the bee hives at Riveredge to learn about the important role pollinators play in growing crops.

    On the last day, youth will spend the majority of the day tending and harvesting vegetables both at Woodland Harvest and the organic garden at Riveredge. The week will culminate with a farmers market featuring the vegetables and fruits harvested by the youth. They will create signs and displays to showcase the produce. Parents of the campers and Riveredge staff will be invited, allowing the youth to gain experience in marketing produce. They will also have the opportunity to lead their family members on a garden tour, illustrating their new knowledge and enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture.

    The curriculum and partnerships we will develop for the Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp will be used with many more students, campers and families in the future. We have offered garden-themed camps for the past three years, but they have not been focused on sustainable agriculture. SARE grant funds will allow us to develop new curriculum on this important topic. Riveredge specializes in providing schools with hands-on, inquiry-based science programs that teach Wisconsin Model Academic Standards. While we currently offer a garden-based school program for younger students, we plan to expand our offerings by developing a program for upper elementary school-age students focused on sustainable agriculture. SARE grant funds will help lay the groundwork to help us achieve this goal.

    Resources Used

    We will consult a variety of resources to develop curriculum for the Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp. First, we will work closely with the Riveredge Woodland Harvest/Organic Garden Manager, Keith Hiestand, to create the permaculture quest the youth will participate in on the first day of camp. We will also consult with him on which starts and seeds the campers will plant in the organic garden, and which fruits and vegetables will be ready to harvest during camp.

    We will work directly with the farm manager and program director at Wellspring CSA to coordinate the activities that will take place at their site. We will work closely with their staff to ensure the learning goals for the camp are incorporated into the visit to their organic farm.

    We will meet with Tim Dobberphul, the farmer who will lead the tour of his organic dairy farm, during the planning phase to get ideas from him on how to best communicate the benefits of raising dairy cows in a sustainable way, and how this method of farming has had a positive impact on his land.

    Finally, we will consult the book The Growing Classroom: Garden-Based Science by Roberta Jaffe and Gary Appel and the The National Gardening Association’s website to develop meaningful, hands-on, age appropriate activities that will further the youth’s knowledge and understanding of the concepts we plan to teach.


    We will share what we learned through the project in several ways. We will post pictures and share quotes from the youth, educators and farmers who participated in the Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp on the Riveredge Nature Center website and Facebook page. We will also share highlights from the program by writing a blog post and posting it on the Riveredge website. In addition, we will write an article summarizing the things that we learned through this project that will be featured the Riveredge newsletter. This will mailed to over 1,000 Riveredge members. Each year we invite all of the summer campers and their families to a special program at the end of the summer. The evening features a slideshow with photos of all of the camps we offer. We also share stories and memorable moments with the participants. On average, nearly 150 people attend this program. This would be the perfect setting to share the highlights of the Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp. Youth who participate in this program will be invited to create a poster illustrating what they learned. In addition, we will ask them to make a short video during camp that we can include in the slideshow. Finally, we will post an article on, a website dedicated to ensuring that Wisconsin citizens have opportunities to learn about, participate in, and promote environmental education activities and resources. This will be a good way to reach a wider audience and promote sustainable agriculture by sharing the curriculum we develop within the environmental education networks.

    Student and Community Impact

    Families that participate in the Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp will be asked to evaluate if the program met their expectations. Criteria will include satisfaction of the parent(s) with the program, their child’s interest in the topics we present, the program instructors’ performance, and quality of the overall educational experience. As part of the evaluation, we will ask parents to list their child’s favorite activities and make suggestions on how we can improve the camp in the future. We will also gather quotes from each of the participants about what they liked/disliked about the experience. Riveredge staff will evaluate behavior and response of youth who participate in the Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp as well as the time allocation and outcomes immediately following the program. In addition, we will give the participants a pre/post survey related to sustainable agriculture knowledge and opinions to assess their learning of key concepts taught during the program. In addition, Riveredge staff will meet with the farmers who help facilitate the program to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Discussions will include satisfaction of the campers and parents with the program; feedback will be incorporated into future program development.


    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.