City kids care for calves at University farm camp

by Dawn Throener

Kids milled about a barn Wednesday, feeding calves milk from oversized baby bottles; others replaced old water with fresh water or dumped grain into the calves’ feeders.
As participants in a new University camp, these elementary-school children were the primary caretakers for about 20 calves this week.
The weeklong summer day camp,”Farm in the City: A Hands-on Interactive Experience,” allowed children to experience farm life and better understand agriculture.
The camp is sponsored by the University’s College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine.
“It’s really fun,” said Becky Miller, a fifth-grader from Lino Lakes, Minn.
Third-grader Keyona Sanchez of Shoreview, Minn., said her favorite part of the camp is feeding her calf, but her least favorite part is “cleaning the poop.”
Bryan Boreen, a camp counselor and agricultural education major, said the kids loved taking care of the calves.
“Every five minutes the kids ask ‘When are we going to go feed our calves? When are we going to go down to see our calves? When are we going down there?'” he said.
In addition to their chores, the children also learned about agriculture from classroom and hands-on experiences.
Patricia Walker’s two children, Cody and Katlyn, are campers this week. Her husband, a veterinarian, went to school at the University. She grew up on a farm and wanted her “city-slicker” kids to broaden their experiences.
Camp director Ted Radintz said the idea for the camp had been around for a while, but its founder, Alfredo DiCostanzo, wasn’t able to get a grant until this year. The Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council funded the camp for the next three years.
During the five sessions offered this summer, 190 first- through fifth-graders participated.
“Agriculture as an industry has been declining and becoming less of a family operation,” Boreen said. “I think it’s important for kids to begin to understand where their food comes from. It doesn’t come from a grocery store. Everything originates from the farm.”