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Farm Fun Day Camp teaches some lessons, but is mostly for fun

July 14, 1999

Catching grasshoppersBy GREG SIMMONS / Staff Writer

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff writer




SHARPSBURG - A fear of insects could make it rough for summer campers attending The Farm Fun Day Camp at the Washington County Agriculture Education Center.

On Wednesday, the youngsters, ages 7 to 11, trudged through an alfalfa field with nets they would use to catch and identify insects.

"They don't know what they're doing. They're just playing," said Jeff Semler, a Maryland Cooperative Extension Service educator and camp counselor. A farmer would use the same method to decide whether to use pesticides, he said.

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Campers dumped their nets to find ladybugs, grasshoppers, aphids, ants, moths, katydids, inchworms and praying mantises, among others.

Semler said he saw a few potato leaf hoppers, which damage alfalfa crops by sucking the leaves dry, but not enough to require a pesticide spray.

Another counselor spotted a tomato hornworm, which is a green caterpillar. This one was the size of a well-fed mouse. Semler said hornworms can severely damage tomato crops.

Insect collecting is just one of the activities in which the campers participate as they learn how agriculture affects their lives, Semler said.

Catch netBy Friday, the campers will have dabbled in each of the five main subjects the camp is emphasizing: crops, natural resources, animals, food and plant science.

"Americans are dreadfully ignorant" about the environment and knowing where there food comes from, Semler said.

"Most people don't know the first conservationist is a farmer," because if farmers don't treat their land well, the land won't treat them well, he said.

The campers milked a cow and churned ice cream Wednesday. On Tuesday, they learned about air pollution and soil management.

Later in the week, the youngsters will shear a sheep, Semler said.

Joel Reynolds, 8, said he was having fun learning about "farming and stuff." Joel was holding a small plastic vial containing an adult grasshopper, which he said he would add to his insect collection.

Samantha Spencer, 9, said she had learned about beekeeping earlier Wednesday and had built a birdhouse. She said she was looking forward to milking the cow.

"I'm surprised at how much the children want to learn," said Jenny Weddle, a camp assistant from the Washington County Parks and Recreation Department.

She said she grew up on a farm in the area and is glad to share her knowledge with campers from the city who haven't experienced farm life.

Semler said most of the campers come from Washington County.

The camp enrolled 46 youths this year, 16 more than last year, at $60 per camper. This is the second year for the camp, he said.

The camp is a cooperative effort between the Washington County Parks and Recreation department, the Maryland Cooperative Extension and the University of Maryland Agricultural Research Center.

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