This past week we hosted 16 kids at the farm for Lost Peacock Creamery Summer Camp. Their days were filled with animals, sunshine, goat cheese, and very frequent dips in the water troughs (us Pacific Northwesterners aren't used to heat and the week of summer camp brought about record breaking heat levels).
They picked blackberries and made them into jam, hunted for sticks to fashion bows and arrows, milked and painted goats, and, above all, they played.
With each other.
Side note: That super cute guy with 2PorkShakur is Uncle Leo, Matthew's brother, who lives on our farm full time and was head camp counselor.
I read an article in NPR recently, and it shook me.
The entire article is worth reading (along with a similar article from The Atlantic), but here's some snippets:
Today's teens are just not spending as much time with their friends in person, face-to-face, where they can really read each others' emotions and get that social support. And we know from lots and lots of research that spending time with other people in person is one of the best predictors for psychological well-being and one of the best protections against having mental health issues. Source.
The author, an American psychologist, is talking about what she has dubbed iGen. "Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet."
iGen is showing mental health issues across a wide variety of indicators. They're more likely than young people just five or 10 years ago to say that they're anxious, that they have symptoms of depression, that they have thought about suicide or have even [attempted] suicide. So across the board, there's a really consistent trend with mental health issues increasing among teens. Source.
So what does that have to do with our summer camp?
Our camps are designed to mimic the outdoor adventures that many of us grew up with. Our farm is a safe place, with a perimeter fence, adult supervision, and enough rules to make sure no one gets truly hurt. In between all that there's plenty of time for them to forge relationships with each other and utilize their free play muscles, all while interacting with and learning from each other and the animals.
In doing that they grew bigger and stronger as human beings.
Because really, that's what it's all about.
This farm makes strong people. Matthew and I are raising two of them, but every time we open our gate to a group of kids, I'm reminded that this farm is truly magical.
Can this farm singlehandedly fix the mental health crisis facing our children's future?
No, probably not.
But I'll be darned if we're not going to try.