What I learned at Urban Farm Camp is…

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(more backstory on Urban Farm Camp as told by me at the Rivard Report)

..snack time is sacred. When your group of campers are needing a little inspiration to finish harvesting the amaranth, spreading the marigold seed, or watering the ancestral garden bed – the promise of chilled fresh melons, raspas, paletas and fresh pressed juice shines like a beacon that rivals the summer Texas sun.

Put on by Lorie Solis of the Renewable Republic, food is the heart and soul of Urban Farm Camp. Captured in more obvious activities like pickling cucumbers and preparing lunch, the theme of food and the cycle of food is also found in changing the goat’s hay, starting seedlings, using an Eloo (dehydrating toilet) and feeding scraps to the soldier flies.

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Complementing the theme of food, awareness was also emphasized. We did sit spots each morning to hone our senses in on our surroundings. Plenty of farm camp sounds like birds and wind in the trees, and smells like tomato vines and a fish pond were present. But so were the noises of the urban world we sat in the middle of. Trains, sirens, cars passing by. We noted the contrast of life inside and outside the perimeter fence.

I was fascinated by how quickly things changed in a few short days, such as the budding, opening and closing of blooms on the lotus plant. But what also changed were some attitudes.

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It wouldn’t be truthful to say there wasn’t any resistance to the smell of old cheese and meat products in the bin where the soldier flies live – and there was plenty of discussion over the unfamiliar experience of sharing bathroom quarters with a few grandaddy-longlegs. But for many of the campers, even the “gross” stuff started to feel normal and even fun as they grew more comfortable with “roughing it” as the week went on.

However one of the larger issues we explored with some early resistance was the responsibility associated with meat. Death to allow life.

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Chef Micheal Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn joined us for Thursday’s “fish kill” day. Along with instructing our fish cleaning, Chef Sohocki lead instruction on making scratch corn tortillas and a garden-fresh cucumber onion slaw.

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Most actually thought it was really cool to catch the tilapia and were only slightly traumatized by the cutting/killing of the fish.

I kid.

No campers were traumatized thanks to Chef Sohocki’s calm demeanor as he explained his process in cleaning the tilapia. He answered questions as he went and humored the request from the crowd to see the fish’s heart.

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In the end the fish got mostly rave reviews, though most of the diners were unaware the meal they had helped to prepare had been instructed by one of San Antonio’s most acclaimed chefs.

Urban Farm Camp faced both life and death head on. The campers, age 5-10, pushed themselves to more this week than many adults ever have.

I look forward to next week’s session and starting the adventure all over again.

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3 thoughts on “What I learned at Urban Farm Camp is…

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