Dear Farm & Wilderness Community,
The heart of Farm & Wilderness has always been our connection to each other AND to the land, water, and wildlife that surrounds us. This summer served as a poignant reminder of just how vital these connections are to our well-being. We are not separate from the natural world; we are an integral part of it. This truth has never been more apparent, and it underscores the significance of the work we do at camp and in our conservation initiatives.
Perhaps you have read the Surgeon General's spring report on what has now been named “the loneliness epidemic”, and the healing effects of social connection and community. While growing up has always had its challenges, kids today are more likely to feel weighed down by the weight of the world. Farm & Wilderness aims to be a place where our young folks can shed some of that heaviness--reconnect with themselves, make new friendships, and forge deeper connections with the natural world.
When reading through camper feedback this summer, it was striking how often they--or their parents or caretakers--cited the opportunity to build friendships as the most valuable part of their time at camp. In a world where making meaningful human connections has become harder to do, at camp there's time and space to form and nurture relationships.
Our 200+ staff members play a pivotal role in making camp happen under any and all circumstances. Their resourcefulness, adaptability, and resiliency make camp happen. Our staff model these vital life skills for each other and our campers, who, in turn build their own skills. I watch this happen every day of camp.
The Great Flood of 2023 and the norovirus outbreak during Session 2 this summer reminded us how interdependent we are (and not just on Interdependence Day!). While our camps themselves weathered the storms and flood, the public and private roads, trails, waterbodies, and local businesses we rely on to make camp happen were damaged--some beyond repair.
Operating camp seamlessly is far from a given. It requires dedication, hard work, and a collective effort from the F&W community--our staff, camp families and campers, alumni, and neighbors and friends. I find inspiration in the resilience of our community and our shared passion for joyful play, purposeful work, and rugged outdoor living.
At its quarterly meeting in early November, our Leadership Team and Board of Trustees made the incredibly difficult decision to pause summer programming at Flying Cloud and Red Spruce Grove for summer 2024. Acknowledging the complexity and fragility of our operations is crucial to ensuring quality, sustainable camp programs in the future, and this decision was part of that process. Over the coming months, a team of stakeholders including FC/RSG alums, staff, and trustees will be working together to relaunch these programs in alignment with our goals and values. You can learn more about this decision and share your feedback with us here.
As we look to the future, I want to thank our community for its active engagement. I encourage those who love Farm & Wilderness but who may be loving us from afar to move on in!. Consider returning as a seasonal staff member, sharing a special skill as a staff "guest star", offering philanthropic support, or recommending our camps to other families. Together we can continue to provide transformative experiences for young people and foster a deep connection to the natural world. Let's move forward with hope, resilience, and the belief that what we do makes a difference.
With gratitude and optimism,
Frances McLaughlin, Executive Director, Farm & Wilderness