Here in Portland, we love sustainable farming almost as much as we love our kids. Almost. But, what if there was a way to combine gardening and summer camp into one big, dirt-filled learning experience your kids won’t soon forget?  We say, it’s your lucky day, Portland, because The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen just announced their new herbal medicine and fiber camps they will offer this summer. Read on to find out how they plan to encourage little farmers to get their hands dirty while they learn how to create something magical from plants.

Side Yard Farm & Kitchen Front

photo: Side Yard Farm & Kitchen by Suzie Ridgway

The Brains Behind the Garden
Stacey Givens, veteran chef, gardener and owner of The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen, is famous in the culinary world for her super fresh produce, as well as her nomadic supper club events that typically involve secret locations, a slab of wood for a table in the middle of a field, summertime seasonal delicacies and 20-place settings. Also, if you’ve dined at any of the 16 restaurants she services, like Grand Central, Ned Ludd, Old Salt Marketplace and Grain & Gristle, chances are you’ve sampled some of her homegrown produce.

Side Yard Farm & Kitchen, Stacey Givens
photo: Stacey Givens, courtesy of Side Yard Farm & Kitchen

Down on the Farm
The farm is situated down a quiet, residential road, across the street from the Whitaker School track on NE 42nd Avenue. With Portland’s high price of real estate and new houses going up in every available space, this is definitely not where you would expect a beautiful, sunny stretch of open farm land to be found, much less a tranquil and hilly farm plot with a big, red barn, covered picnic shelter and a couple of other small buildings, sheds and covered areas sprinkled around.

The Side Yard Farm was established in 2009 in its original site a few blocks away, that’s still in use. But, just a couple of weeks ago, Givens doubled the acreage of her farm with the new space down the road and has designs on four educational, garden-inspired camps for kids for the summer.

Side Yard Farm & Kitchen - Lacey
 photo: Lacey at Side Yard Farm & Kitchen by Suzie Ridgway

Summer Camps
First up, it’s the Herb Medicine Camp, from June 22-26 for kids, ages 7-10, where kids will learn how to identify local plants and how to use them for everyday self-care. During the week, they’ll also create their own first aid kit and get a deeper understanding of how herbs can be used as medicine through theatrical play, scientific research and writing.

Next, it’s the Cycles of the Earth, Moon and Womb Camp, from June 29-July 3, for kids 9 and up. The focus of this camp will be on the interconnectivity between the four seasons of the earth, four phases of the moon and four weeks of a woman’s cycle. Kids will explore these ideas through gardening, play, art and inquiry.

From July 6-10, Herb Medicine Camp II will be offered, building on the skills learned in the first Herbal Medicine camp.

Then, for bigger kids, ages 10 and up, it’s Fiber Camp from July 13-17, with a focus on fiber that’s dyed, woven and worn. Kids will study the chemistry of dyes and actually learn how to spin and weave yarn using basic techniques.

Side Yard Farm & Kitchen

 photo: The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen by Suzie Ridgway

Parents can register their kids now for the weeklong day camps that will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fees are offered on a sliding scale from $200-$300. Any contributions over $250 will go towards a scholarship to fund other campers. The camps will be taught by Project Beet Generation, a program whose mission is to share sustainable and equitable garden education with the community.

What’s Next
The community education programs are evolving for sure and Givens is interested in feedback on what parents would like for future after-school and homeschool classes. Givens hopes to host monthly summer movie bike-ins at the farm, along with her monthly brunches and suppers. Keep an eye fixed on Facebook for updates.

The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen
4800 NE Simpson St.
Online: thesideyardpdx.com

What type of summer and after-school farm-based programs would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below!

—Suzie Ridgway