By Kelsey Maben
Livestock Specialist at Chaffin Orchards
Something magical happens when a simple lesson sparks an epiphany in a child’s life. It forever changes the way they interact with the world around them. A lesson as small as discovering the origins of the food they eat can change their perspective of the world forever. Today, much of modern society’s interaction with the food consumed is centered on the impersonal relationship of a grocery store. Contrast that with the experience of helping to grow and harvest food straight from the field and you offer a child entirely new ideas about where healthy food originates. Chaffin Family Orchards provides three educational campout opportunities during which, kids learn about growing healthy food. Chaffin Orchards is a 2,000 acre, diversified farm at the base of Table Mountain in Oroville. They raise grass-fed beef and goat, pastured chickens, heritage wool sheep, turkeys, and ducks. They also have over 200 acres of old growth olive trees, 30 acres of citrus and avocado orchards, 30 acres of heirloom stone fruit orchards and large expanses of open rangeland.
Every spring, elementary school classes are welcomed to camp out and spend a few days learning about a real working farm. During their day, students explore the property, guided by a team of experienced farmers. Activities include: picking fruit, feeding animals, collecting eggs, hiking to nearby waterfalls and discovering the other rare ecological features of Table Mountain. The experience on the farm is designed to teach students a greater appreciation for nature and where their food comes from, while giving them hands-on experiences that underscore lessons learned in the classroom. At night, the students camp in orchards under the supervision of teachers and parent chaperones. School camping trips are scheduled March through May and typically last two to three days.
Chaffin Family Orchards also offers a 5-day farm summer camp program in August. There are two camps offered, with one for ages 10 to 13 and another for ages 14 to 18. During the camp, each attendee has the opportunity to fully engage themselves in the daily workings of the ranch, while simultaneously learning what it takes to make an old-fashioned farm work in a modern world. There are special activities that include swimming and fishing in a private lake, a night hike with stargazing, and a field trip to a local farmer’s market. The goal for each camp student is to teach them where their food comes from, while imparting a greater appreciation for the effort that farmers make to grow healthy, fresh food. There is a team of fantastic, energetic camp counselors to stay with the students; while skilled and knowledgeable farm staff lead the various activities throughout the day. It is the desire of Chaffin Family Orchards to have each student: depart with increased confidence, a deeper regard for working as part of a team, and to have gained hands-on practical skills during their stay.
The summer camp attendees stay in majestic 100 year old olive groves. Tents are provided, as well as all meals for the camp. The menu is composed of delicious grain-free meals, tailored to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. All the food is designed to meet the needs of kids on a Gluten-Free/Casein-Free or Paleo diet; It is even GAPS™diet friendly (a protocol for removing many common food allergens and irritants) with all meals meeting the standards for the full GAPS™ stage. Most of the ingredients for the menu are grown right on the farm and nearly all of the other food items are organic and local.
Chaffin Family Orchard’s newest offering is a family “glamping” (glamorous camping) in which the entire family can come and experience farm life. The 400 square foot fabric-sided cabins feature two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The cabins boast all non-electric appliances so guests hand-grind their coffee, cook meals on a wood fired stove, and enjoy dinner by candle light. You can start your day with a hearty breakfast made with eggs collected by your children, moments before from the nearby chicken coop. Next, you can help the farm staff milk the dairy cows or maybe move the sheep to fresh pasture. Spend the mid-day gorging on fresh fruit at the perfect stage of ripeness, still warm from the sun. Wrap up the afternoon exploring the landscape, either biking down country farm roads, swimming in the pristine lake, or hiking to many of the awe-inspiring natural wonders of the orchards. You will make memories your family can cherish forever.
Contact the Chaffin Family Orchards if you are interested in the spring elementary school camping program, farm summer camps, or the family glamping. Regardless of which camp you choose, your child will flourish as they discover a connection to nature and a new enthusiasm for healthy eating options.