As we prepared for this week, we faced a hard decision. After assessing the resources we had available to us, a process that included evaluating the availability of City Farm staff and gauging our own energy levels after an exhausting first summer, we checked our registration logs and found that we had only two campers signed up for our last session. We realized that this last session, staffed by overworked students and with only two campers that might not even show up, could not live up to what we wanted Summer Chefs to be.
In the end, we decided to cancel our last session of the camp. It’s important to us that this decision is not understood as a surrender, because we do not feel defeated. Instead, we look back on our summer and on Summer Chefs with pride at our many, many successes and gratitude for the many, many people who have given us their support along the way. We are proud of the camp we designed. It identified a need in our home of Columbus and actively sought to address that need. We are also proud of the camp that we ran, because it was different than what we had planned–different, but not worse. We learned so much.
The biggest markers of our success this summer were the moments when we knew the kids were engaged and excited to be there. All of the myriad inconveniences and frustrations were worth it when the kids we were teaching turned to us and asked if we could run this program during the school year, or if they could come back next time. One of our campers was so invested in the idea of us expanding the program that she even recommended (with considerable authority) we talk to her mother, who runs her own consulting business. If we could do this all over again, we would focus on recruiting more kids. We would explore more relationships with schools, as we found that a successful camp is the product of engaged kids as well as enthusiastic adults.
If we could do this again, we would also try to grow the program earlier. If it were possible to involve campers in more elements of the gardening process, including planting seeds, waiting, and watering, we feel like they would take more personal responsibility and ownership of the garden. It’s also possible that they would be more likely to enjoy eating vegetables that they helped grow. We’re exploring the possibility of a garden club at the elementary school around the corner from the Garden of New Freedom, as well as City Farm “sprouts”, or satellite gardens, at other community sites throughout Columbus.
Ultimately, this is not the end of our involvement with City Farm. We look forward to witnessing–and being a part of–City Farm’s continued growth.