Youth Speak! Melanie reports back from her summer at Farm & Wilderness camp in Vermont

Melanie Long (right) and campers with freshly-harvested potatoes

My name is Melanie Long, I’m currently a Fall Intern at Grow Dat, and this is what I did this summer:

It started out with a blind leap into a state I couldn’t even place my finger on a map…Vermont. Plymouth, Vermont to be exact. I was to attend a work based summer camp for six weeks called Tamarack Farm, part of the Farm and Wilderness Camps. Beforehand, I was told that I would not have access to my cell phone or any other form of electricity for that matter so there would be no way for me to know what Liam and Hope were up to on the Bold and the Beautiful, my favorite soap opera. Anyway, I decided to not have any expectations about the farm when I arrived. This was a great idea, as I soon found out, because there were many many many new things that I was able to experience.

Grow Dat is an urban produce farm set in the heart of the city set right next to an overpass, but it is scenic none the less. Coming from this type of farm, it was totally new to live on a farm with both animals and produce, nestled in a valley surrounded by big green hills and a beautiful lake. The first big adventure I remember was nothing other than milking a cow. I love milk and personally knowing the cows that the farm’s milk supply came from was pretty eye opening! There were also chickens, ducks, calves (which act like puppies), goats and a ginormous (I cannot find any other words to describe her) pig. The pig was a sweetheart.

Up close and personal with the lovely dairy cow

The work projects were a pillar for the farm’s motto: Work is Love Made Visible. One of the major work projects which required about 40 percent of the campers was Barns and Gardens in which campers tended the farm’s garden and did various animal related tasks. Already having 5 months of farm knowledge under my belt, gardening was nothing new, and neither were some of the plants. Now this is very interesting because farms in the deep south, like Grow Dat, cannot plant many varieties all year round. Grow Dat stops growing cool weather plants like lettuce, radishes, carrots, and kales at the first sign of warm weather. Then Grow Dat plants hot weather plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash and okra. In short, we plant what we can while we can. Vermont’s climate, on the other hand, allows for all of these things to be grown at the same time during the summer. It’s not hot enough to wilt the leafy greens, nor is it cool enough to stop production of hot pepper plants. It’s amazing! I was introduced to different produce varieties like blue potatoes (see photo above if you don’t believe it), and was able to see how other things I eat grow, like snap peas and asparagus. (Honestly I didn’t start eating most vegetables until I got to Vermont. The cooks incorporated a vegetable from the farm into every meal we ate, and I enjoyed every morsel!)

Tamarack Farm Lodge

During the summer I hiked on the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains, covering 26 miles in 4 days. I milked cows, cooked for about 90, used a composting toilet, went off a rope swing into the lake, picked blueberries, tried new foods, played ultimate frisbee, built a shower house, constructed a bed railing, made bridges and doors, screen printed shirts, and made a beach with the rest of the camp one bucket of sand at a time.

I did all of these things this summer and even more that I can’t fit into this blog post!

Melanie hikes 26 miles on the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains

Melanie Long graduated from Grow Dat’s core program in June 2012 and now works as an Intern on our farm. She is a Senior at De La Salle High School in New Orleans.