Book Your Kid’s Summer Vacation Now: Culinary Camps and Farm Schools

Photo Courtesy of The Sylvia Center

From the James Beard Family Chef Series at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to the hordes of flourescent t-shirt wearing schoolchildren who fill the Union Square Greenmarket on field trips, it’s no secret that children are curious and excited about the food they eat and where it comes from. To fill them in on the details, happily here in the city there are outlets like the Young Chefs Program at The Sylvia Center, where children ages seven through twelve learn a myriad of kitchen skills and food facts during a six-week course.  Additionally, school and youth organizations are invited up to Katchkie Farm, the Center’s 60-acre organic vegetable farm in Kinderhook, New York for more hands-on farming fun.

Meanwhile, out on the East End of Long Island, Edible Schoolyards, the urban gardening program launched by West Coast chef Alice Waters, gives children the opportunity to get their hands dirty and literally create a schoolyard filled with edible, healthy treats; while at The Hayground School in Bridgehampton and the Amagansett School, future farmers or informed eaters are also learning what it takes to plant, harvest and cultivate within the gates of their own institutions.  (Can’t make the trip? You can even check out what these schools and others like them are up to in their gardens here.)

But once school is out for the summer, even the most dedicated after-school farmer will turn to sugary popsicles and video games in the comfort of an air-conditioned living room if left to his or her own devices. The good news is parents looking to avoid this now have a plethora of summer camps geared toward food, cooking and farming to choose from. Check out these summer camp options:

At The Ross School in East Hampton, teens whose busy summer social schedules might not allow them to commit to a full week of day camp have the option of enrolling in a Culinary Arts program, which takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30pm to 3:30pm either during the weeks of June 25th through July 6th; July 9th through July 20th; July 23rd through August 3rd or August 6th through August 17th.  The program emphasizes the use of fresh and seasonal ingredients from local farms.  Chances are come September, teens will be forgoing cafeteria food in favor of expertly crafted brown bag lunches they put together themselves.  Kids ages eight through 14 can also get in on the kitchen with the “Choose Your Own Major Program,” which offers culinary arts.  You can find out more about summer camp at The Ross School here.

Remember The Hayground School in Bridgehampton, NY? They’ve also got a great summer camp for kids interested in the basics of cooking, taught in The Jeff Salaway Memorial Kitchen.  Another perk is the school’s organic garden and greenhouse.  Camp at Hayground begins on Monday, July 2nd and runs through Friday, August 24th.  There are half day and full day enrollment options, and spots are filling up fast, especially for the younger kids, so plan accordingly.  You can find out more about Hayground Camp here.

In Westchester County, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture offers a Summer Farm Camp.  First through rising eight graders have the opportunity to channel their inner farmer through farm chores alongside the Center’s staff.  Campers get to see the fruits of their labor on the farm when they help prepare healthy snacks, and in the case of the older campers, cook lunch in the professional kitchen.  This day camp has several one and two-week sessions.  Kids older than 14? There are also Counselor-in-Training opportunities for teens aged 15 through 17.  You can find out more about Summer Farm Camp at Stone Barns here.

Here in Manhattan (and at its sister camps on the East End of Long Island), The Art Farm brings culinary curricula to city kids.  Their Half Day Hamsters, Full Day Froggies and Full Day Geckos groups offer children the ability to learn how to bake, among many other activities.  Should parents be taking a summer vacation from brown bag lunch-packing, there is the option to sign kids up to receive a healthy, organic lunch from Red Rabbit, a NYC-based school meal provider. For those spending time on the East End, there is The Art Farm camp amidst potato fields in Bridgehampton, offering a similar philosophy, with outdoor education, cooking classes and farm animals. The affiliated Green School camp in Sagaponack offers even more emphasis on animal care, pony rides and garden/kitchen chores. You can find out more about The Art Farm here.

Last but not least, consider the sleepaway camp at Hidden Valley in Freedom, Maine.  The location is fitting, as Hidden Valley Camp offers kids 8 to 14 the freedom to choose from a variety of program choices:  There’s even a Llamas and Animal Care program. You can find out more about Hidden Valley Camp here.

So, let this springlike weather be your reminder that summer is fast approaching and if you want to enroll your child (or let a parent know about all these cool camp options) you’d better act fast. And if you know of any more programs to add to this list, especially here n the city, let us know and we’ll post them here.

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