Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Interview with Doug Knight

Doug Knight is the Farm Director for Camp Mitchell's Agricultural Project.  When asked what his job entails exactly, he said, "A lot. I wear a lot of hats, I'm in charge of a lot of projects."

His jobs include, but are not limited to, watching the farm's money and making budgets, making sure all of the inventory and money is used, and organizing the maintenance people, the kitchen, the camp staff, the board of directors, and the camp directors to help people participate in farm activities.

There is, of course, the actual growing of food, which is "a huge part of the job."  He enjoys the physical work and planning that goes into the growing of food, but he does not necessarily enjoy the administrative part.  He said that if the farm grows much more, he won't be able to do much more farming and will have to hire more people to work on the farm.

The directors are indeed considering growing the farm (at Doug's requests).  It wasn't always so large, however.  For three years before he and his wife Jenny came to work for amp Mitchell, there were only a few beds around where the chicken coop and outdoor learning center are now, and the Sustainability Intern (Maggie Israel's current job) did all of the physical work for 3 months of the summer.

Faith "for sure" affects Doug's work.  He does not explititly bring it up with campers, or others in the garden, because of lack of time.  He says that he wishes he did have the opportunity to do so, however.  As it is, he believes the lessons about God you can learn while farming and the parallels to parts of the Bible are still there.

God is the source of life, so nurturing life is a good way to get close to Him.  Doug believes that if you pay enough attention to anything, it can be a "path to holiness," as he puts it.  Plus, helping to protect God's earth is also a spiritual activity.

Doug's favorite part of the job is, according to him, "Hard to say."  He really likes the basic work it takes to grow the food.  He also really enjoys having anyone who's excited about it in the garden to ask questions.

He has not liked being torn between the physical work and the administrative work (e.g. grant applications, emails, bookkeeping).  However, it has allowed him to become better at prioritizing items in his schedule.

He discovered his love of farming in Japan 3 years ago, where he and his wife participated in a Young Adult Service Corps trip as a gap year activity.  The school was an internationally-focused college that trained people from developing countries about sustainable agriculture, and how to teach people in their home countries to use sustainable agriculture instead of industrialized agriculture.

There, Doug and Jenny kept up the garden that the school used for teaching activities.  They also picked up a few tips about how to farm as well, and started to think that farming might be the field they wanted to go into.

In 5 years, he sees the farm as a place where he can have full time interns or students to learn much the same things as the students in the Japanese school they worked for, and also the lessons in administration that he has had to learn as Farm Director.  That is to say, things like cooking, budgeting, and local farm community organizing.

They would also discuss leadership  and environment-related questions like "What does it mean to be human?", or "how should we live in a globalized society?"  This program would consist of maybe four people, ad would coexist with the summer camp.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dick Johnson Children's Camp & Chicken Disappearances

Unfortunately, my phone is being extremely uncooperative today, so there will be no pictures in this post for the time being.

Last week the Dick Johnson Children's Camp came to have their 2016 camp at Camp Mitchell!  This camp is a camp for children whose parents have been incarcerated.  They participated in all of the farm activities available to regular Camp Mitchell campers: Food Life, Free Choice, and Special Skill.

The Food Life group was able to witness our beekeepers retrieve honeycombs from the hives, and helped them harvest some of the honey from them.  They learned all about bees and honey!

During all of Wednesday's activities, the campers helped feed the chickens, wash the chickens' water through.  Next was the greenhouse.  There, they learned about the hydroponic lettuce, what it means for a plant to "bolt,' picked lettuce, and got rid of caterpillars.

Then, they learned about the various herbs in the herb garden and the plums in the orchard, and sampled many of them.

Last but not least, the helped us shell some of the purple hull peas we have, which we gave to the kitchen to use in meals.

Sadly, one of our chickens died of old age overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, and Buttercup, our favorite chicken, disappeared from the coop even though our foxproof door additions were secure.  There were no feathers or anything!

We will probably get new chickens soon, as it is nearing time to turn most of the current ones (sans the rooster and the chicks, presumably) into soup.  Something ends, something begins and all that.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tristan's Last Week

Last week was Tristan Odekirk's last week of work.  He is planning on applying to graduate school at Michigan Tech University, where he wants to study Civil Engineering.  His hope is to help cities become more environmentally friendly, and to use what he has learned about soils, animal life, and agriculture in his work. 

We will certainly miss him!  The farm won't be the same without him.

In other news, we made quite a lot of progress on in the cob outdoor learning center next to the herb garden.  We laid one cob layer per day -- seven steps closer to being complete!

We also made many dill pickles with our fresh herbs and cucumbers.  In a little while, they'll be sellable!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Inside Wednesday's Food Life

For those not in the know, Food Life is the hour-long activity that two groups of campers (one boy cabin and one girl cabin) must partake in each morning.  The activities are decided on by Maggie Israel and Doug Knight, and are much the same as Free Choice or Special Skill activities.  We do it in order to make sure that all campers experience parts of the food cycle that they might not experience.

On Wednesday of last week, the activities included pulling up some sunflowers in order to provide room for the other flowers, getting worms off the tomatoes, picking tomatoes and green peas, and weeding the basil and tomato patches in the garden.

Maggie and Doug took a little break from the campers in order to start to make a chicken tractor.  A chicken tractor is essentially a mobile chicken cage that can be drug behind a tractor so that the chickens can eat grass and bugs in new and exciting areas!  Ideally some of those areas will be the area between rows that need to be weeded.

One problem that we need to solve before we finish, however, is how to design the sides of the tractor so that we can drag it over the curved ground of the field, but so that the chickens can't crawl out. 

One thing we considered was a flap around the door.
After lunch that day, campers helped pick the ripe eggplants, tomatoes, and purple hull peas -- the ripe vegetables that would have gone to waste without more people to harvest.  they also picked a few things they wanted to taste for themselves, like sunflower seeds, basil, bell peppers, and lemon cucumber!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Seattle Youth on a Social Justice Pilgrimmage

This Saturday, a group of Episcopalian youth stopped by our farm on their trek across the country for the purpose of learning about social justice causes.  Now in the South, they are calling this part of their youth group trip "Southern Social Justice Experience." 

S.S.J.E. started in Memphis, and they visited such interesting sites as the Civil Rights Museum, Central High, Lucy's Place, and the Clinton Library.  The day before, LaVerne Bell-Tolliver came ans spoke to them.  She is a woman who was one of the 25 black students who enrolled in junior high schools throughout the Little Rock School District in 1961 and 1962, an operation which many of the students were unaware of.  It was also the first time in the South for many of the students.

They started out by helping us harvest some tomatoes, purple hull peas, and carrots that had bolted. 

Then, they broke into three groups to discuss the questions on the issue of world hunger shouted by Doug.  The questions were:
  1. Who deserves to eat?
  2. In nature, who deserves to eat?
  3. What is good food?
 The consensus among the Episcopalians for the three questions seemed to be:
  1. Everyone -- food should be distributed according to people's nutritional needs.
  2. In Nature, it is survival of the fittest.  Humans are on the top of the food chain because we have superior brains, and when we get too populous, we will die out.
  3. That depends on your perspective -- taste depends on culture and personal preferences, healthy food is objectively good, and foods that you need based on your nutritional needs are good. 

We were very excited to get to host a group of students to lead a discussion of food, since doing so to help people see food as a relationship is the point of the farm!

Then, the students had more fun on the farm by attempting to pet the chickens (unfortunately most of them were not feeling cuddly), and hanging out in the herb garden. 

To conclude, the students washed the vegetables they harvested for themselves and put them in their sandwiches. 

The students had a delicious lunch and a lot of fun!  We  hope they return again!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Quiet Week

Last week was not very busy, as farm weeks go.  Last weekend's storm blew down some of our green pea bushes, so we made a trellis and tied them to it.  The wind will have a harder time knocking them down now!

Rolling out the Trellis Wire

Ready for a Storm!

Robert R. Brown campers came to Camp Mitchell.  We're always glad to have these fun-loving souls here!

Robert R. Brown Talent Show

They helped us pick basil leaves to make our pesto sauce, which we sell and use in thhe kitchens.

Picking Basil Leaves
  They also helped us harvest the last of our beets, and lots and lots of onions.

In the Garden