By Greg Kellner, Senior Assistant Director
Summer 2012 began for me at the end of May. I’ve spent the past two months pouring over every inch of camp, preparing for the summer and then ensuring that everything continues to flow smoothly. One of the first things I did when I moved up to camp was worked with Vivian, a local organic farmer and longtime friend to get our garden planted early enough so campers would enjoy what it would provide.
A couple of days ago, in my travels around camp, I stumbled upon Mike Fixler’s* “Tikkun Olam Actions” Olim Kesher group, specializing in animals, eco-kashrut, and on this particular day, our Crane Lake garden. Located at the intersection of Boys’ and Girls’ Rows, the garden is a place that has a lot of foot traffic continually passing by, but only a few camp community members are directly involved in its maintenance. We planted the garden in May but I didn’t think there was a lot of yield there yet. When I had a closer look I saw that there were all different types of squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and beans, ready to be harvested. Tomatoes had grown to a point that they needed to be posted and tied to hold them up, and the garden clearly needed to be watered more than once a day, due to the dry spell we’ve been experiencing.
At the beginning of the Kesher period, the campers were interested but distanced themselves from the project. By the end, after Mike and I had shown them how much they can eat right off of the plants, they were fascinated, and completely hooked on the concept of plant-to-plate eating. Yellow cucumbers (bet you never saw a yellow cucumber before!), dragontongue beans (similar to snap peas), patty pan/sunburst squash…our campers were intrigued by these diverse vegetables they’d never experienced before. They became interested in spending more time in the garden, and even cooking with the vegetables we’d grown. As I continued walking through camp, carrying some of our bounty, I was continually stopped by people wanting to know about the vegetables I was carrying. As I explained, the garden fever grew! Everyone was so excited to hear about the success of the garden. It was truly an incredible afternoon, sharing the best of experiential education and environmentalism with our campers.
Campers will continue to work in the garden and our K’far Teva cookouts will feature produce from our garden along with other produce from Farm Girl Farm, a local organic farm in Great Barrington, MA. We’ll continue to update you with news from the garden. Other plants we’re enjoying include cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, green and red peppers, sunflowers, and broccoli!
*Mike Fixler is a member of our faculty, and an educator at Temple Concord in Syracuse, NY