An Interview with Dolores Barrett, Rancho Mark West Garden Steward and Owl Camp Volunteer

I volunteer to lend a hand and do any extra things they need and in the garden… what’s really exciting is the roof on the barn at the Rancho Mark West: I want you to know that there were as many ladies as gentlemen working on that roof! 

How did you first connect with LandPaths?

[My husband] Richard was involved with LandPaths way before I was because he could go out on the Outings and such and I was working as a nurse. And then they started the garden at Rancho Mark West, which is down the road from my house. I was used to planting everything by seed and I started taking the starts down to the garden there. At my house there’s no flat space, so gardening on flat land – talk about paradise! I started meeting other people that work with LandPaths and there weren’t any sour grapes in the group. They were fun, outdoor people – what’s not to like?

How have you been involved over the years? 

About 11 years ago, they started Owl Camp at Rancho Mark West and it’s been fun to watch it grow. I volunteer to lend a hand and do any extra things they need and in the garden, whatever needs to be done. It’s really exciting when the kids get to pick the stuff [in the garden]. I can remember the first year I did potatoes, this one kid, probably about eight, he wouldn’t let go. He dug down a foot and a half just looking for one more, just one more potato. What a thrill! So many kids come through the garden to enjoy it, play in it, be amazed by it or put off by it (“oooh, bugs!”). Richard did the roof and deck on Riddell’s place in Healdsburg and I helped on that. But what’s really exciting is the roof that’s on the barn at the Rancho Mark West. I want you to know that there were as many ladies as gentlemen working on that roof! 

What brings you back to LandPaths as a volunteer year after year? 

The kids, you know. I grew up in San Francisco. Right across the street from the beach, halfway between Golden Gate Park and Playland. So even though we were in the city, we were always outside. Kids today, I just think are micro-managed and not exposed to the outdoors. So yeah, getting kids outside because if they don’t, we’re just going to end up with a very anemic, pale, non-nature loving world.   

What do you see as LandPaths’ impact, and how has the organization changed since you became involved?

A woman stands in the Rancho Mark West Garden laughing

I can’t help but think every time they get people out on the land – which is a lot, especially the kids – it just makes them aware. Picking up trash and learning the “garbology” of this is not recyclable, this is recyclable and this is compost – just that awareness.   

We have two grandkids now who come out and go to Owl Camp, so that’s exciting. LandPaths clearly worked hard to get a diversity at camp, which I think they succeeded in. It was kind of fun to watch it grow because – it was excellent at the time but now it is excellent. Ten years ago, what LandPaths was doing was different, kind of ahead of the times, but now it’s even more: a science base without being too “classroomy”, fun but really drives home concepts. It’s been fun to watch!

Do you have any thoughts on what you would love to see LandPaths do in the future? What’s your wish for the next few years? 

owl camp kid in garden

1) If LandPaths could just get a template and send it off to the rest of the world, so everybody could do this in their neighborhood. Of course, I realize LandPaths is successful and wonderful because of the people. You know, Craig just has a way. And Lee’s talents and abilities are a great complement to Craig’s.  

2) More of the same – more camps, more kids. LandPaths has got a reputation and it’s good. The places where they’re at are just magical. Clearly there’s a need for it. I remember being at Owl Camp in the beginning and it was just cute, and sweet, and out in nature. From that beginning to what it is now, it’s like wow! It’s so wonderful. I can’t imagine where it will be in another 10 years.  

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