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Farm lessons: Garfield Farm offers campers a peek into 1840s life

CAMPTON HILLS – With a yoke hoisted on his shoulders and a Garfield Farm staff member following close behind, 12-year-old Josh Stewart on a recent sunny day carried two buckets of water to the property’s turkeys, the last of the animals to be fed and watered that morning.

The task was just one of several activities the St. Charles boy – along with his sister, Emma, 15, and Geneva resident Boyd Eggen, 10 – did as part of a three-day camp at Garfield Farm.

Assistant Site Manager Joseph Coleman said about 10 children were expected to attend the second camp session planned for July 19 to 21.

By the last day of their session, Emma, Josh and Boyd seemed to know just what to do when it came to feeding the animals, but would sometimes get direction from Coleman.

“Did the geese get some food?” Coleman asked the trio earlier in the morning rounds, adding that “a scoop will do.”

Nowadays, Coleman said, most people are removed from typical farm life, so the camp – which teaches children ages 8 to 15 about 1840s farm and prairie life – gives kids a chance to interact with historically-appropriate farm animals and to try historical trades, such as blacksmithing, and dances.

Coleman taught Emma, Josh and Boyd the Virginia reel and the waltz after describing what a ball might have been like in the 1800s.

“It might last all the way until dawn,” Coleman said, asking if they could imagine having to feed the chickens after staying up all night.

Earlier in the week, the kids participated in ice block relay races using ice tongs and tried writing with a pen and ink, Coleman said.

Emma – who has been participating in the camp for several years – said she enjoys the “old-fashioned way of doing all the chores.”

Plus, she said, she likes the animals.

Her brother agreed.

“Feeding the animals is really fun,” Josh said.

Turkeys, oxen, pigs, sheep and chicken are among the animals that call Garfield Farm home. Many are endangered breeds, Coleman said, noting the Java chicken as an example.

Boyd said interacting with the animals at Garfield Farm is not the same as visiting animals at a petting zoo.

“You can really see how the animals act,” he said.

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