REDDING, Calif. — Like most of his fellow students, 11-year-old Cameron Troutman didn’t know much about farming when he came to summer camp.
But the youngster from Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., got to try his hand at everything from discing a field to moving cattle into a pen during a week-long gathering at a school farm here.
“I like working on the farm,” Troutman said. “I just like working with the cows and goats, stuff like that.”
Troutman was one of about 17 middle school and early high school students who were attending an agriculture-themed camp July 21-25 put on by Redding’s city recreation department and the Shasta County Farm Bureau. Two week-long camps for elementary school children were offered earlier in the month.
The youngsters started each morning with light chores — feeding animals, looking for chicken eggs and cleaning pens — before spending the rest of the morning at one of four stations. The kids rotated from day to day working with horses, welding, caring for sheep and riding a tractor to cultivate a pumpkin patch.
The students also received classroom instruction on such topics as irrigation and how different cuts of meat are graded, said Ashley Grotz, a professional ranch hand who was serving as a camp counselor.
The first-ever camp was designed to give urban kids firsthand knowledge of what happens on a farm, said Grotz, who studied agricultural business and animal science at California State University-Chico.
“It’s just giving them an opportunity to see these things that they aren’t immersed in every day,” said Grotz, adding that some of the kids have expressed interest in joining 4-H or FFA or learning more about their high school ag programs.
The city and Farm Bureau offered the camp as a way to generate interest in vocational education programs and to highlight the farm, which is used by students from Redding’s two high schools, Shasta and Enterprise.
“Everyone here gets to do something,” said Tiffany Martinez, a rancher and manager of the Shasta County Farm Bureau. “It’s not just classroom learning.”
Troutman and his friend, 15-year-old Zak Smith of Redding, said the camp gave them an interest in pursuing careers in farming. The hands-on activities are what attracted Smith to the camp, he said.
“I thought it’d be fun to get to work with animals,” he said.