Summer campers at Farm Discovery
Summer campers at Farm Discovery.
(Via Farm Discovery)
Food & Drink

Farm Discovery kicks off summer season, plans fall feast

Summer camps are in full swing at Pajaro Valley nonprofit Farm Discovery, which is aiming to expand its mission of educating about food and building community connections to more youth in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Its Fall Feast in the Fields, set for Sept. 23 and featuring chef Jessica Yarr, is again a big piece of the fundraising puzzle.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Lily Belli on Food newsletter. Be first the first to hear about food and drink news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Lily’s email newsletter here and text alerts here.

For nearly two decades, Farm Discovery at Live Earth has been working to build closer connections between people and agriculture, farming and food. Through a diverse offering of educational and outreach programs, the Pajaro Valley nonprofit is focused on transforming food systems and inspiring youth and their families to reshape their relationship to food, farming and nature.

The organization’s 150-acre working organic farm serves as a learning space and grows produce that is then provided to local organizations serving community members in need, such as Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes. It also works with local schools to provide “farm immersion” programs and field trips.

One of the organization’s biggest initiatives is its summer camps, which kicked off for the season earlier this month. Held each June and July, students ages 5-13 participate in hands-on activities like planting vegetables, learning about livestock management, cooking, plant identification and more. The “leaders in training” (LIT) program is aimed at those 13 and up, and helps teach job skills and prepare students for the future, according to executive director Jessica Ridgeway. This year, the organization has been working to expand more programs to students in Monterey County as well as Santa Cruz County. Those efforts include working with other organizations to raise money for scholarships for students to attend the summer camps.

These types of programs are vital to help connect children to food systems and set them up for success in the future, while also reducing food and nutrition insecurity, said Ridgeway. Working to provide produce for those in need also provides a valuable lesson and ensures that more people have access to not just food, but healthy, organic food. These lessons can play a big role in equipping children with life skills for their future, she explained.

Supporting these programs is a big and costly undertaking. To raise money for existing and expanded offerings, Farm Discovery hosts its annual Fall Feast in the Fields, featuring live music, drinks and food prepared by local chefs from the farm’s produce. Tickets start at $200 and are on sale now for the Sept. 23 event, at which Jessica Yarr is the featured chef.