Session 2

The Farm and Garden: Where Love Grows at Tawonga

Camp is abuzz with excitement for the first Shabbat of the summer with campers! Almost a full week into Session 2 and Session 2a, camp is in full swing. Our oldest campers in Chalutzim kicked off backpacking in Yosemite this week, bunks are taking on the Challenge Course and Floats and Free Swim are proving to be all-around favorites, as always. 

Mission moments are plentiful, and bunk bonding is cemented after a week of group activities, late night chats in the cabins and pure summer camp bliss. Campers are immersed in Jewish programming too, getting spirited at Ruach Hour with our Director of Jewish Programming and finding spiritual moments throughout Shabbat. 

To foster a supportive Camp culture, positive self-identity and creating a cooperative community are baked into the week’s schedule. For instance, on the second night of the session, campers experienced a much heralded tradition – the Gender Campfires. 

The Gender Campfires are an opportunity for campers of all gender identities to gather and discuss relevant gender issues and to establish a safe and inclusive space for everyone. Through poems, stories, songs, personal sharing and group activities, campers unpack some of the beauty and challenges of growing up within their gender identity. At the Women’s Campfire, one of our SCITs, Julia, blew everyone away with a powerful slam poem about female bonding. These campfires also set the tone for the rest of the session, bringing alive our mission and creating a place where kids can be themselves and feel supported by the larger community. 

The very next day following the Gender Campfires, campers joined what we call “Camp T Community,” a program about creating the environment we all want to have here at Camp: one that is supportive and welcoming, one that celebrates differences and is no place for bullying. By taking part in this activity, campers take ownership in building the cooperative culture  that is so beloved here at Tawonga. 

The last rung of our four-prong mission is Tikkun Olam: repairing the world by creating impactful partnerships with nature. For Session 2 and Session 2a campers, partnerships with nature happen in and out of Camp. From “Forest Tikkuns” (controlled burn preparation around Camp property) to backpacking trips in Yosemite and time spent in the Tuolumne River, farm and garden, there are endless opportunities to engage with the beautiful surroundings of Camp Tawonga. We are so fortunate to be in such a gorgeous place! 

As always, the people make the place. Farm and Garden Supervisor Dahlia Zail has more on how campers are connecting to our natural world through our Farm and Garden program.

Staff Spotlight: Dahlia Zail, Farm and Garden Supervisor 

Q: How long have you been a Tawongan?

This is my fourth summer on staff, and I was a camper for six years.

Q: What are you excited about for this summer?

This summer I’m excited about all the animals on the farm, hanging out with my besties and going to Sonora for supply runs and Jamba Juice. And I’m looking forward to bringing pigs back to the Tawonga farm! I’m also stoked about focusing on fruit and veggie production in the garden and trying out growing some new things like melons and Thai chili peppers. 

Q: What’s new in Tawonga’s farm and garden this summer?

This year in the garden, we are introducing melons and new varieties of heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers. We are also building a new compost system from scratch. And we’re working on expanding the garden space out into an area that used to be for staff housing. In the farm, we have brought pigs back after not having them for almost a decade! We also have baby goats back after not having them last year! 

Q: What goes into prepping for the season?

Prepping the garden this year involved a lot of behind the scenes office work ordering seeds, organizing starts planting, communicating about animal pick ups with the caretaker of Xbox and Poopsie (our goats) in the off season, and acquiring new animals (chickens and pigs)! Once arriving at Camp, the prep work involves bed turning, lots of weeding, irrigation set up, and eventually, starting to get plants in the ground! 

Q: What are you observing campers enjoying so far this summer? 

It’s so awesome seeing kids get in the farm and garden already this summer. The kids have been loving the farm in particular, and it has been so special watching them connect with the animals and get SO excited about feeding them and getting to give the pigs tummy rubs!  

The farm is turning into such a hub of activity at Camp which is such a cool feeling as someone in my role. I’m stoked for kids to continue getting to spend time in the farm and now that we’re in Session 2 and 2a, campers are doing even more cool stuff like getting to play with the baby goats we just picked up and eating fresh eggs from the chickens at sleep-in breakfast. I also can’t wait for later in the summer when kids will be able to eat fresh produce from the garden! 

Thank you Dahlia for all you do to keep Tawonga’s Farm and Garden thriving!