Nurturing Relationships in the Camp Ecosystem
By Adair Arbor and Alexis Charney
Much like the forests we love and protect, Farm & Wilderness is part of a complex ecosystem of community resources: each of our individual camps rely on each other and the Farm & Wilderness year-round staff to thrive. As a whole organization, we also benefit from reciprocal relationships with the even wider camping “ecosystem”, sharing resources with other camps and regulatory bodies. Post-pandemic, we are recognizing the value of being part of this wider ecosystem and seeing ways we can contribute to other organizations by sharing what we have learned in operating our camps.
American Camping Association and American Camping Association, New England
The American Camping Association is a community of camp professionals who join together to share knowledge and experience, and to ensure the quality of camp programs by setting standards for accreditation. F&W camps are all ACA accredited and go through a cycle of re-accreditation every few years. This summer, Tamarack Farm hosted ACA visitors as the culmination of their re-accreditation process for the first time since their relaunch.
Being ACA accredited brings many benefits, but the primary advantage is that its clear and enforced guidelines assure camp families that we are meeting industry standards to keep their kids safe. “It allows us to do more out-of-the-box programming,” says Alexis Charney, Operations Coordinator and point-person for re-accreditation at F&W camps. “How can we ensure that we can have an off-grid, knife and fire-friendly camp that also feels like a safe choice to parents? ACA accreditation makes that happen.”
F&W really represented at the ACANE Conference this spring, with an entourage of 12 attendees! Our team attended training sessions on the most up-to-date practices around a wide variety of topics, including staff hiring, training, mental/emotional health in a camp context, and equity/inclusion in outdoor settings. Both Jarod "W" Wunneburger and Polly Williams (and her business partner and F&W alum Dusty Clitheroe) were presenters at the conference. Polly and Dusty will present at ACA's 2024 national conference, and W will present at several other regional ACA conferences next spring.
We also have staff representation on ACANE’s EPIC (Emerging Professionals in Camping) Committee, an excellent group for young professionals to share training resources, crowd-source solutions to common camp problems, and connect with other enthusiastic camp leaders.
In late September, F&W was a stop on ACA’s annual Fall Camp Tour. Our colleagues were blown away by the fantastic colors of our abundant forests, our organizational structure, yummy lunch with produce from the farm, and our unique program offerings. F&W staff were able to tour and visit other VT overnight camps.
Vermont Camping Association
One of our team members, Adair Arbor (director of SAM Camp and development associate), has recently been named the new president of the Vermont Camping Association. We hosted the annual VCA fall meeting in the Tamarack Farmhouse in October, which brought perfect weather and delighted visitors. We look forward to more deeply connecting with other Vermont camp leaders to share knowledge, address common hurdles, and form important community connections.
Participation with these groups comes back to our shared value: Community. We freely share with others what makes our camps functional and special. We gratefully receive continuing education on how we can continue to make our camps more and more excellent. We widen our circle of friends and colleagues, and deepen our relationships with neighbors. We open opportunities for collaboration with other organizations. It has been a great year for strengthening our ties to the wider camp ecosystem!