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Camp offers farm activities, lessons
NATCHEZ, Miss. -- Life in a rural community does not guarantee opportunities to experience agriculture, understand where food comes from or learn how to treat animals.
The Adams County Farm Camp offered 35 children, ages 8 to 13, hands-on activities around cattle, chickens, horses, fish, wildlife and gardens.
“Most kids love the country, but they don’t have the chance to experience it,” said David Carter, an agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “We are fortunate in Adams County to have so many facets of agriculture for them to see within a small area.”
With assistance from several other sponsors, the Adams County Extension Office organized the fifth annual camp to help teach young people the value of agriculture.
“We wanted to teach them respect for animals, including cattle and horses,” Carter said. “They learned about the work it takes to keep cattle healthy and to train a horse. Along the way, they had fun learning how to rope and how to pick and eat raw vegetables.”
Campers started their two-day excursions with a hayride on a local beef cattle farm. They fed the cattle and learned about three common beef breeds. The tour included a break with a hunting dog demonstration. Before lunch, they made one more stop to see homegrown produce and a chicken coop.
“We wanted them to pick and taste fresh fruit and see vegetables growing in a garden,” Carter said. “Some of them even tasted raw black-eyed peas.”
Other activities packed into the camp included a hike around a nature trail at the St. Catherine Wildlife Refuge, a pond seining demonstration, a discussion on bee keeping and an overview of equine health from a local veterinarian.
“One goal is to actually let them handle or work with animals, so they applied a fly treatment to cattle, groomed horses and maneuvered them in an obstacle course,” Carter said. “We try to change the agenda from one year to the next, but the goals remain the same: hands-on lessons about agriculture.”
Although 12-year-old Levi Taylor is not sure if he will ever need the skill, he said his favorite camp activity was learning how to throw a rope.
“I ride horses already, so I’m used to them,” Taylor said. “Who knows? I may need to know how to rope someday.”
Fayla Guedon, the Adams County Farm Bureau women’s chair, has been involved in the camp since its beginning.
“We developed the idea of the camp to help kids understand more about agriculture,” she said. “The popularity of the camp means we have repeat participants every year and a waiting list, too.”
July’s heat and humidity in south Mississippi means the sweat equity of putting on this camp is quite literal.
“It’s a long two days, but almost 400 water bottles later we can say, ‘It was worth the effort,’” Guedon said.
Adams County Extension agent Jason Jones said feedback from the parents is always as favorable as it is from the campers.
“As soon as it’s over, parents and kids start asking about next year,” he said. “We are always planning ways to improve the next camp. We had more campers this year than in the past, and that created some challenges. We may include members of our 4-H leadership team next year to give more individual attention to the young campers.”
Parents pay a small fee for children to participate, which primarily covers transportation and T-shirts. Additional sponsors included the Adams County 4-H, Adams County Farm Bureau Federation and Adams County Soil and Water Conservation District. Their support helped cover meals and other costs.