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Keep kids down on the farm with summer camps

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 10:50 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
The St. Charles Park District offers summer camp programs at Primrose Farm Park, 5N726 Crane Road, St. Charles. Camp options are available for children ages 5 to 12.

Kids. How are you going to keep them down on the farm, once they’ve seen MTV? Not to mention Game Boys, movies on demand and 24-hour sports programming?

With the St. Charles Park District’s summer camp programs at Primrose Farm Park, the question might just be, how are you going to keep kids away from the farm, once they’ve seen vintage threshing machines, milked a cow and made their own ice cream?

It’s all part of a day spent in the unique surroundings of a historic, 1930s-era working farm.  Campers will feel like they’ve been transported back in time as they perform such bygone chores as egg collecting, feeding livestock and spinning cloth. They’ll wander in and out of the vintage barn, summer kitchen, demonstration plots and discovery trails as they learn such skills as how to milk a cow by hand, practice the forceful art of blacksmithing or make their own butter and ice cream.

There are a number of Primrose Farm summer camp options for kids ages 5 to 12. Some are one-day camps scheduled for every Friday from June 20 to Aug. 1. Others run Tuesdays and Thursdays from mid-June to the end of July, and there’s one weeklong session during the first week in August that brings it all together.

The Friday camp session, Time Travelers, takes children ages 7 to 12 back in time through visits to various local museums with agricultural themes similar to that of Primrose Farm.

“We’re going to try to do history museums ranging from the 1840s to the 1920s to demonstrate the progression in technology and how people’s lives have changed over the past 150 years,” said Kirk Bunke, Primrose Farm manager. “We’ll go to a grist mill so kids can see how grain was raised and turned into something usable and edible for both people and animals.”

Other museum field trips will include Graue Mill and Museum in Oak Brook; Garfield Farm and Inn Museum in LaFox; and the Fabyan Windmill between Geneva and Batavia.

In both the Junior Farm Camp, a half-day session for 5- to 8-year-olds, and the Summer Farm Camp, an all-day session for 9- to 12-year-olds, campers will be spending a lot of time with the farm’s many animals, according to Bunke. Campers will engage in hands-on activities, such as making butter, and farm-related crafts, such as baking biscuits, which they will then eat with the butter they’ve made. “They’ll get a chance to see where their food comes from and get exposed to more primitive types of equipment used to produce this food,” Bunke said.

The final camp session, called Down on the Farm, is a weeklong recap of the kinds of things covered in both the Junior and Summer two-day sessions, but spread out over five days so campers get to experience both the farm environment, as well as visit other park district facilities, such as the pool and mini-golf course. “With all of our camps, the kids get a good workout. We send them home really tired," Bunke said.

They are also sent home with important life lessons and a chance to see something before it disappears from American culture. “It is becoming increasingly rare for people to have any connection to agriculture at home,” said Bunke. “When the country was founded, 98 percent of Americans lived and worked on farms. By the start of World War II, it was down to 40 percent, and today it’s down to less than 2 percent, so there is so little connection now. This is that chance for kids to get exposed to big animals, to learn where their food comes from and do it in a safe environment and user-friendly place. They get a good view of what life was like for people, even just a generation or two ago.”

For parents interested in teaching their children such life lessons about where our food comes from and how this area was developed aqriculturally, Primrose Farm summer camps provide an invigorating and active insight into a rapidly-disappearing way of life.  For more information, contact Primrose Farm at 630-513-4370.

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