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Farm to Fork Camp offers urban kids chance to learn the art of agriculture, eating, cuisine

Karaleigh Schmidt divvies up servings of local vegetables she prepared at the Farm to Fork Youth Camp cooking competition.
Karaleigh Schmidt divvies up servings of local vegetables she prepared at the Farm to Fork Youth Camp cooking competition.

Durham county has more 230 farms — and 15 kids got to visit a few of them recently.

The Durham County Cooperative Extension’s third annual Farm to Fork Camp for Durham youth ended recently with a special cooking competition.

The kids cooked food they got from local farms and farmers’ markets. Professional chefs from North Carolina Central University’s Sodexo Dining Services taught the kids cooking techniques throughout the week, and the kids showed off their skills during the competition.

“The aim of this collaborative venture is to not only teach life-skills in cooking and preparing foods to the kids but also to introduce them to farm-to-table food education and agriculture in its many forms,” said Morris White III, the cooperative’s director.

Pura Vida Farms, Jubilee Family Farm, Briggs Avenue Community Garden and a Raleigh farmers’ market hosted tours for the kids. They learned where their food comes from and how to make healthy food choices.

“Most people are so disconnected from their food supply,” said Tony Hall, Sodexo’s general manager. “That’s impactful when they start making decisions of what they’re going to eat. If you know where it’s coming from, it gives you the power and knowledge to make those good decisions.”

At Jubilee Family Farm, kids learned to identify herbs and fish in the farm’s pond. Maggie Healy, one of the farm’s owners, said she wanted show the kids how food grows and expose them to a small farm like Jubilee.

“Kids normally get their vegetables from the store,” she said. “And I think it’s good for them to see where they come from.”

Pam Jordan-Carrington said kids learned what plants grow in North Carolina and about seasonal vegetables at the farms, too. She said the kids also visited livestock farms — including Pura Vida Farms.

“We saw cows; we saw horses because she has a horse stable as well, and we were able to walk her entire property,” she said. “She had a sow that was in labor — and tons of goats.”

The cooperative’s 4-H, family and consumer sciences, and horticulture programs collaborated to put on the week-long camp for 10 to 15-year-olds.

“If we can get students this age to start thinking about food much more holistically — and much more where it’s coming from versus Food Lion or Kroger — then they’re going to make better decisions when they go to college and as they grow up,” Hall said.

To wrap up the week, the kids formed teams and prepared meals alongside professional Sodexo chefs. During an open house, family members and cooperative workers voted for their favorite meals. The winning team — Team Peach Clobberers — prepared a fresh garden salad with pork loin and mango salsa.

“We’ve got a few kids that want to be chefs,” Jordan-Carrington said.

One of those kids is Mia Durant. Originally from South Carolina, Durant moved to Durham three years ago. This year the 10-year-old got a scholarship to attend the $100-camp.

“I want to be a chef because cooking is fun,” Durant said. “And it’s cheaper than take out.”

Ana Irizarry: 317-213-3553