Vegetables with a social and educational purpose are grown in a clearing in the forest at Camp Amy Molson in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.
Young Roots Farm is the name of the garden at the camp near Lac McGillivray. The camp is for inner-city children – most from Montreal. The idea to have campers grow vegetables as both a camp activity and educational program was first suggested by camp supporter Liang Cheung in 2012.
“We’re always looking for new programs,” said Camp Amy Molson Director of Operations, Dane Savoury.
The primary focus of the farm program is to teach inner-city children about where their food comes from, and the work which goes into making food grow.
“That was something for us that was very important to teach campers,” Savoury said.
The Young Roots Farm program is overseen by Lynea Aboumrad, who has previous experience working on farms and education in ecosystem restoration.
Aboumrad said the farm teaches campers agriculture using a sustainable approach.
“They understand how to grow food using the ecosystem around it.”
Using the ecosystem involves relying on rainwater, gravity, and carbon retention.
The farm is surrounded by forest on the camp property. Aboumrad said wildlife have been attracted to it and moose have been spotted in the clearing.
Farm education materials are developed for the camp by Ana Castillo and cover a variety of topics, including how to make cheaper foods, or processed foods healthier to eat, and about natural food dyes.
“There’s no separation between nature and food,” Aboumrad explained.
The so-called ‘farm team’ does the planting in the spring and campers tend to the crops during the summer. Regular campers are aged four to 14, and a separate farm and wilderness camp exists for youths up to age 17.
Young Roots Farm is part of Camp Amy Molson’s effort to become the first carbon-neutral youth camp in Canada. Camper and staff are closely tracing the greenhouse gas emissions of the facility and from its sources of food. As an incentive, each cabin could win plants throughout the season for their efforts to reduce waste and the carbon footprint of the camp.
During the summer, produce grown at Young Roots Farm was sold at farmer’s markets across the region. They are also hoping to sell it to restaurants and donate produce to community organizations.
The Young Roots Farm program at Camp Amy Molson relies on support from donations and grants.
“As awareness grew, grants were more easy to secure,” said Savoury.