Fernbrook Farms, tucked in the woods off Georgetown Road in nearby Bordentown Township, is popular for its historic bed and breakfast, community-supported agriculture, and the Fernbrook Farm Education Center, whose hands-on summer camps have been educating—and entertaining—youngsters since 2001.
The center hosts homeschoolers and students on field trips year round, but in the summer, two programs take center stage: the Fiddlehead Summer Day Camp for kids ages 6–11, and the Young Stewards Summer Enrichment Program, for kids ages 12–14.
Kids can attend the Fiddlehead program on a weekly basis starting June 27 and running through Sept. 2. Activities in the program differ every week and every day, and might include catching frogs, harvesting cucumbers and making pickles, archaeological digs, or making wind chimes from bamboo.
The Young Stewards program starts July 5 and goes through August 26. It was added three years ago to allow campers who had aged out of Fiddlehead to continue learning about the environment.
Attendees might take day trips to go crabbing, kayaking in the Pine Barrens, or to a local marsh. This year, Fernbrook will also offer some overnight camping and hiking trips for the older campers.
Farmer Larry Kuser, the center’s executive director, is third-generation owner of Fernbrook Farms. The former educator has operated the farm since 1982, and created the Education Center in 2001 to meet a need he saw to give area children hands-on experience with nature.
“I grew up on this farm. When you’re a kid, you don’t even realize what you’re learning,” he said.
The 240-acre grounds include two ponds, two creeks, meadows and wetlands, which serve as outdoor, hands-on classrooms. Staff at the nonprofit educational center strive to fulfill the mission of educating about nature and biodiversity, as well as food sources and the importance of nutrition for healthy lifestyles, said Claire Wildermuth, program coordinator.
Campers are supervised by adults at all times.
“And our staff are not high school or college kids,” Kuser said. “Most of our staff are teachers, all CPR trained and firstaid certified,” Kuser said.
The educational center shares the 230 acres of Fernbrook Farms not only with the B&B but with the CSA. In community-supported agriculture, customers purchase shares of crops grown on the farm. Campers learn about agriculture in part by spending time among the 13 acres of co-op crops or even picking crops for some of the handicapped members of the CSA.
There is also a 4,000-square-foot children’s garden on the grounds, as well as two ponds, two creeks, meadows and wetlands that provide great hiking opportunities.
“We use the community supported agriculture to explain to kids about organic farming, how healthy soils build healthy crops, composting, crop rotations,” Wildermuth said.
Campers even have a hand in helping around the farm, sometimes picking crops for handicapped CSA members. In the children’s garden, they learn about insects they find there, or make nutritious snacks from the food crops they see.
Though there is no pool on the grounds, the staff emphasized that kids get plenty of opportunities to cool off in the summer heat.
“We do water activities, whether it’s a slip and slide, huge water balloon fight with everybody even instructors,” Wildermuth said. “Water soccer, water relay races. So they’re going to get soaked no matter what.”
“Many kids come here because their parents say, ‘This sounds really cool,’” Kuser said. “And the kids are biting and screaming saying, ‘I don’t want to go.’ But after a week of being here, they love it and they want to get back.”
At press time, three of the eight weeks of the Young Stewards Program were full, but there were slots available for all 10 weeks of the Fiddlehead program. Those interested should call the center (609) 298-4028 for information. Fernbrook Farms is located on C.R. 545 (Georgetown Road) in Bordentown, three miles from U.S. 206. On the Web: fernbrookeducation.org.