Strawberries, Chickens, Pickles, and Creeks: Otherwise Known as Just Another Magical Day at Owl Camp North!

Category: Blog, Community Resilience, Family Friendly, Food, Nature Camp, Owl Camp, Preston Farm, Rooting Youth in Nature, Youth Programs

By LandPaths Staff

July 9, 2020

Two Fridays ago marked the end of another exuberantly successful two weeks of Owl Camp North at Preston Farm. For the second year, LandPaths partnered with Lou and Susan Preston to bring Owl Campers to the 125-acre family-operated organic farm and winery in Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Valley. 

Campers harvested strawberries and other fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm, planted pumpkin seeds with Farmer Kristin, built forts, played jump rope, sang songs, collected fresh eggs with Preston staffer Pedro, learned about beneficial insects with Preston staffer Jesus, made sun tea, and learned the art of pickle fermentation with Lou. In the afternoons, campers spent hot afternoons exploring the cool waters of the salmon-bearing creek on the property! 

“My limited experience with youth here on the farm leads me to compare what it is like working with LandPaths vs others,” says Lou Preston. “The distinguishing ingredients are the professionalism and experience of the LandPaths staff. The investment they make planning and preparing is truly awesome. Their skill at motivating and inspiring the campers is exciting to behold. I love watching the kids in their various group activities dancing around, singing and laughing, uninhibited and seemingly without a care, but clearly there is a purpose to what they are led to do. Mentored chaos? It’s beautiful.” 

“I’m so glad we have this camp,” said Owl Camper Eleanor. “If we didn’t, I’d be at home doing nothing!” Eleanor’s mother told us that she was happy to get her kids out because they hadn’t been in contact with other kids for two months. Of course, LandPaths staff followed strict Covid-19 health protocols following recommendations by the CDC, Sonoma County Health Department, and the American Camp Association. This included daily temperature checks, regular hand-washing at touchless stations, masks for all campers when in proximity to each other, small groups that didn’t change throughout the week, and other action steps. 

On Juneteenth, campers learned about the significance of this day in American history. This was followed by a special lesson in capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial arts that combines music, dance, and acrobatic movements, from Youth Programs Manager Jamie Nakama. Jamie has studied capoeira for almost two decades and it was a privilege for her to share this cultural art form with the campers, who took to it immediately!

Education Field Specialist Mineaux Gray recalled how much one Owl Camper, Kristian, would light up as soon as he got into the creek. A shy and quiet child, he was always the first to jump into the chilly creek while the other kids cheered him on, saying he was the bravest one in the group. 

“It was sweet to see this shy little guy become the star of our small group when we got to the water,” says Mineaux. “It really embodied the spirit of leading with nature; we didn’t need a fancy ice breaker to bring the kids together! We just had to lead them to the water and nature did the rest. It was really special to see.”

“The mission of LandPaths is to connect people with nature and to inculcate an appreciation of the wild,” says Lou Preston. “Here at Preston Farm there was a perpetual symphony of creatures running and slithering and buzzing and flying; in the fields, in the woods, in the stream. Life and growth and decay and death; the kids get it all. And for me the wow! factor of doing a workshop with the kids rapt and questioning and responsive. We learned to pickle; it was simple and fun with a take-away home skill. The kids loved it and so did I. So Jamie and all: camp was amazing for me as well as for the campers. Thank you.” 

Bilingual Education Field Specialist Tomio Endo leads campers in a singalong.

One-third of all campers will receive scholarships across the summer at Owl Camp at Preston Farm and Rancho Mark West. The previous months of isolation and missed school made the nature immersion led by our experienced, joyful Education Field Specialists even more essential. 

Ken, a longtime Preston staffer, expressed his joy at seeing how his two daughters connected even more deeply with the land as Owl Campers. He shared a story of how his daughter’s best friend was able to attend camp on a scholarship, something that would not have been possible otherwise. And how a potential language barrier was overcome by the diligent communication in Spanish by Bilingual Education Field Specialist Luis Orozco.

LandPaths is incredibly grateful to the Preston family and staff for welcoming us to the land. As Bilingual Education Field Specialist Tomio Endo put it: “This is the summer experience that every kid deserves.”

Thank you to all of our wonderful Camps Campaign donors. You made scholarships possible for local kids who might not have been able to attend otherwise. We could not have this impact on rooting youth in nature without your generosity! 

Our hard-working youth team is now at Rancho Mark West getting a new set of small group Owl Campers out on the land for fun, adventure, learning, and connection in nature. Missed Owl Camp North at Preston Farm this year? Don’t worry! Be on the lookout for registration for next year’s sessions in early 2021!

Lou Preston

" The mission of LandPaths is to connect people with nature and to inculcate an appreciation of the wild. The kids loved Owl Camp and so did I. It was amazing for me as well as for the campers. Thank you. "

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