Farming at Camp McDowell started in 1947, though the land has changed drastically. Summer camp alumni fondly remember digging potatoes which would be served for dinner that night in the dining hall. Camp also had a herd of cattle during those days, and a good portion of Camp McDowell’s food supply came from our land. Eventually, the convenience and affordability of the food industry, coupled with the growth of programming at camp, led to more and more of our food being brought in by truck. By the mid 1980s, all of camp’s food was delivered to us. Small scale agriculture still existed at camp in the form of staff gardens, summer crop planting and harvest for summer camp, and even an organic garden which supported a small CSA (community supported agriculture). After a few years of dreaming and planning, McDowell Farm School started pilot programs in 2014.
The McDowell Farm School has reanimated farming on a larger scale at Camp. For the first two years of pilot programs, all classes took place at Fallen Oaks, our 4 acre production site on camp. In 2014, we expanded into Mark's Farm, a 40 acre area at Camp and our permanent home for McDowell Farm School. The majority of produce at Fallen Oaks goes to our dining halls. Last year, we harvested over 5,000 pounds of sweet potatoes that went into meals served at camp. And the food grown at the Teaching Farm goes into the education and enrichment of all people who come to the Farm School. The McDowell Farm School looks to the history of farming at Camp McDowell as inspiration and precedent for its education programs.
In the past five years, we have raised two barns, assembled a greenhouse, built an expansive chicken coupe with multiple chicken yards, and established over four acres in crop production. We most recently finished new pen rotation structure for our pigs and are currently working on rabbit hutches, new chicken tractors, and much more!
As the McDowell Farm School continues to grow and look to the future, we aim to stay true to our roots by producing food and managing our land using sustainable practices. Our goal is to have a farm that will produce alternative energy, zero waste and great food. From that perspective, we teach students of all ages how to appreciate food, animals, and the land around them.