Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another great Food and Farm Camp!

This year’s first Youth Food and Farm Apprenticeship Camp put on by Growing Up Organic, a project of Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa Chapters, in partnership with the Glebe Neighborhood Activities Group was slightly different this year than last. This summer we decided to do two camps, and instead of having one only on the farm and the other only in the city we combined both to offer a more diverse experience to the youth that attend them.

Our first camp ran from July 25th to July 29th. Anyone that knows about the camps knows that the goal of them is to provide youth with a realistic perspective on the food system, an understanding of conventional farming practices versus organic, and help the youth connect the food they eat with where it comes from.

We spent the first two days of camp at the Glebe Community Centre where the 15 youth attending the camp got to watch the film Food Inc, scavenge through a nearby supermarket to locate certain ingredients, and also do some organic cooking with Organic Chef Stephanie Stewart. These two days at the Centre set the scene for the experience that was to follow. The idea was to give the youth a basic understanding of the food system and conventional farming practices so they could compare and contrast those practices with the ones they would see at Alpenblick Farm.

9am on Wednesday morning could not come soon enough as the youth waited in excitement for their chance to experience Alpenblick Farm. Robert Oeschli, who is the farmer at Alpenblick Farm and coincidentally a bus driver, picked us up at the Glebe Community Centre by school bus at 9am and we were on our way out to the Farm for three days of camping and grassroots education.

Upon arrival we were greeted by Robert’s wife and farming partner Petra Stevenson, their farm helpers Alex and Jessica, their potbelly pig named Freddy, and a llama named Prince David. The three days and two nights that followed can be summed up by the smiles of tranquility that came over the youths faces as they exited the bus and took a step back in time to a place where quality and meaning come before mass-production, and health before profit.

Our three days on the farm were spent harvesting from Alpenblick Farms vegetable garden, milking cows and goats, playing camp fire games and our infamous Farm Olympics, taking part in an Aboriginal ceremony, learning survival techniques, cooking outdoors over an open fire, lounging with goats, and most importantly absorbing the humbling wisdom taught to the youth by farmer Robert Oeschli. The 15 youth that walked through the doors of the Glebe Community Centre on Monday July 25th, left Alpenblick Farm on Friday July 29th with a deep and very crucial understanding of the food system, a new look at health, an appreciation for organic food and farming, a confidence that can only be achieved by experiencing new challenges, and above all a new group of friends.

Myself along with Organic Chef Stephanie Stewart and support staff Jordan Davies would like to thank all those who attended the camp for your unrelenting enthusiasm and open minds, as well as Torry Simpson from Growing Up Organic, Paul O’Donnell from GNAG, and most importantly Robert and Petra of Alpenblick Farm for once again opening their doors to the youth of Ottawa, sharing their knowledge, and for all the time they put in to bettering the local and organic food scene.

Our next camp runs from August 22nd to August 26th, sign up can be done online at For more information on the Growing Up Organic and Canadian Organic Growers please visit our blog at or our website at

Thank you,

Jasen Brousseau, Camp Coordinator