While some kids spend their summers leisurely enjoying their time away from the classroom, the kids enrolled in the Laughlin Chapel’s summer camp have spent the last six weeks learning entrepreneurship, farming, and mindfulness skills thanks to a special partnership with Grow Ohio Valley. 

Set-up, sales, and payment collection for the market were handled by the campers. 

The Wildfarm Program was created by Grow Ohio Valley Americorp Member Tasha Carr to help fill the gap for the camp’s older students in grades five and up. Over the last six weeks, the kids spent time with the Grow OV team to learn about planting zones, growing and preparing their food, and bringing it all to market. The program also utilized partnerships with local doctors and The Mother Jones Center for Resilient Community to provide complimentary activities in health and art, respectively. 

The program culminated on Wednesday at the Public Market with a kid-let market where campers sold their fresh-cut flowers, vegetables, and artwork. “The kids grew their own flowers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. They also worked at the Mother Jones Center for Resilience to make original art and the artwork that’s printed on canvas bags that are also for sale,” said Carr. “After all of that, they will share the proceeds amongst themselves.”

The kids sold tomatoes and cucumbers that they helped grow throughout the summer.

Partnerships like this help provide students with a meaningful and memorable experience, explains Martha Wright, executive director of the Laughlin Memorial Chapel. “Grow Ohio Valley has been a fantastic partner this year. They have been a partner for years, but this year they have gone above and beyond for the kids,” said Wright. “The only way we can do what we do is through our community partners who freely provide their time and services. It’s been a wonderful experience for all of us.”

Some of the campers dressed up and made signs to help draw attention to their market.

So, what did the kids think? Ten-year-old Dae’Vion loved getting his hands dirty by learning how to plant his own food and enjoyed having the chance to sell his items at the market. Campers Delani and Taelyn agreed that it was fun to grow their own tomatoes and carrots. They learned important lessons in home gardening, like how to use gardening steaks to prop up their plants to provide extra support and protection from rain and wind. 

Laughlin Memorial Chapel summer campers showing off the artwork the design they created as a team to help promote their market.

Colton’s favorite part of the Wildfarm program was getting to work alongside his friends to grow their own vegetables. “It’s been one of the best summers I’ve ever had,” said Colton.

You can learn more about the Laughlin Memorial Chapel’s programs by visiting laughlinmemorialchapel.org.

Alex Panas is the Communications and Development Manager at Wheeling Heritage. She earned an undergraduate degree in health communication from Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and a master of arts in communication studies from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Since moving back to the Ohio Valley, Alex has been involved in a variety of organizations dedicated to revitalizing Wheeling, including the Wheeling Young Preservationists, Generation Wheeling and the United Way. A self-proclaimed cat lady, Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her two cats, Zoey and Millie, and her husband, Aaron Moore.

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