December 07, 2023

Area youth learn about composting, insects as DeKalb County’s Safari Kids Camp kicks off

KIRKLAND, Ill. — Area schoolchildren got their hands dirty July 27 learning about insects, composting and the role that worms play in sustainable food production during the kickoff of a day camp run by the DeKalb County Community Gardens.

The first of a two-day Sustainable Food Safari Camp began at DCCG’s Walnut Grove Vocational Farm, 33600 Pearl St., Kirkland.

Campers ages 11-15 learned about composting, vermiculture and beneficial insects before boarding a bus to Klein’s Farm and Garden Market in Elgin and the Milk House in Pingree Grove for private tours and sampling at each location.

“This is the second year that we’ve done the sustainable food safari camp,” said Jackie DiNatale, associate director of DeKalb County Community Gardens.

She said the camp is made possible by a grant through the Sustainable Research and Education federal program.

“SARE, it’s an agricultural grant to get kids out on the farm and see what’s happening,” DiNatale said.

The SARE program, which operates in four regions, offers competitive grants and education program funding throughout the country. Illinois is included in the North Central region.

North Central SARE strengthens communities, increases producers’ profitability and improves the environment through grants and education.

During the first stop at Walnut Grove, DiNatale said not only did students learn about vermiculture and composting, but they also participated in a beneficial bug hunt during which they identified bugs that are good for plants. Participants also took part in a garden vegetable scavenger hunt by solving riddles.

Jordan Hargrave, 12, of Kirkland, said she liked to learn about the different types of vegetables.

While on the scavenger hunt for those vegetables, Jordan’s sister, Hope Hargrave, 14, found one of the beneficial bugs that was included on the farm bug hunt, a praying mantis blending in among the vegetables.

One of seven other campers, Hunter Belanger, 14, of Esmond, said he joined the day camp because he wanted to learn more about soil and enjoys learning about farm culture.

As 9:45 a.m. approached, the campers gathered near the entrance and boarded a bus provided by Voluntary Action Center.

At Klein’s, campers learned about seasonal vegetables and sustainable weed management. At the Milk House, owners Clint and Brook Carey showed campers how to incorporate fresh local produce into ice cream flavors.