Cumberland County Cooperative Extension’s Junior Master Gardener Summer Camp is helping children discover the importance of agriculture and the source of our food supply through hands-on learning and fun.

The camp, part of Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Summer Fun activities, was held June 11-15 and provided youngsters ages 9-13 the opportunity to learn the importance, uses, classifications and life cycle of plants.

Jason Weathington, Cooperative Extension urban horticulture agent, said the camp gives children a real-world learning experience about agriculture and gardens that translates into passion for learning.

“These kids are so smart you only have to show them one time and they will never forget, but we have to show them a real-world scenario out in a field or out in a garden where they have that tangible experience that stays with them for life,” Weathington said.

The first Junior Master Gardener Summer Camp was held in 2015 and is based on a curriculum from Texas A&M University. Weathington credits Cumberland County’s Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program with helping build the camp into a success.

“There was such a great level of interest from our master gardeners that we really needed this program for our youth and they lit the spark for this junior master gardener program and it has been tremendously successful,” Weathington said.

One of the highlights of this year’s camp was a field trip to Autryville’s Buzz, a hydroponic farm just north of Autryville in Sampson County. Owners Jeff and Wendy Woolard converted a former poultry farm structure into a farm where lettuce and greens grow indoors without soil or natural light. The plants receive nutrients through a special watering system beneath a scientifically-designed lighting system engineered to produce optimal wavelengths for growth.

The children learned about the hydroponic process and sampled different types of lettuce and greens. They expressed amazement when the lighting system was turned on, filling the long, windowless room with a hot pink light. The light is actually a blue color but appears an otherworldly neon pink to the human eye.

“I like Junior Master Gardener Camp because we get a lot of hands-on experience with gardening and plants and different kinds of animals that make the plants we eat,” said 13-year-old Peyton Musser. “What I learned at the hydroponic farm is that the lights they use on the plants work just as well as the sun.”

There is still time for your child to have fun and learn through the 4-H Summer Fun program. Activities for young people ages 5-19 are offered through August. Examples of activities include arts and crafts, cooking, science and technology workshops and leadership camps. Youth 4-H membership is required and there are fees for most activities. To see a complete schedule, go to cumberland.ces.ncsu.edu or call 321-6864.

 

Cumberland update

• Tonight: Board of Commissioners regular meeting, 6:45 p.m., Room 118 of Cumberland County Courthouse, 117 Dick St. Anyone wishing to speak during the public comment period should register prior to the start of the meeting.

• Thursday: Department of Social Services adoptive and foster parent information sessions. Sessions held at noon and 6:30 p.m. at DSS, 1225 Ramsey St. Call 677-2541 for more information.

• Sunday: Friends of the Library present author Bryant Simon at Headquarters Library from 3 to 5 p.m. Go to cumberland.lib.nc.us for more information.

 

Jon Soles is the public information specialist for Cumberland County Government. You can reach him at 910-321-6579 or jsoles@co.cumberland.nc.us.