Having fun down on the farm

Young participants of the Wild, Sustainable Summer, a new program between Homer Wilderness Leaders (HoWL) and Steller Gardens, have the opportunity to earn school credit and learn through experience on topics surrounding sustainable farming, backcountry skills, creating plant-based art materials and the harvesting and preparation of wild plants.
“It’s a summer-long adventure into the fun of growing your own food and also discovering that food is all around you,” said Annie Silverman, farm manager of Steller Gardens and developer of Wild, Sustainable Summer. “The idea is to introduce the fullness of living on a farm, all the fun things and that it’s not only planting seeds.”
HoWL is a nonprofit based in Homer that provides a variety of outdoor and experiential education programs for youth and has partnered with Steller Gardens to offer Wild, Sustainable Summer for the first time this year.
Classes are for 10- to 14-year-olds and started May 26. They are held on Mondays from noon to 4 p.m. at various locations depending on the class topic.
Past class activities have included planting a garden, harvesting edibles from the beach, creating compost tea out of materials like fish meal and chicken excrement, building survival shelters and interacting with the farm’s horses, dogs, cats, chickens and goats.
The new program qualifies with the Alaska State Science Standard and can contribute science credit for Connections home-
school students.
According to Ty Dawn, HoWL’s special programs director, Wild, Sustainable Summer is the only HoWL program that qualifies to offer school science credit.
One of the core goals of the program is connecting youth to potential internship partners and individuals involved in the community, said Silverman. While the participants might be 10-14 years old now, there is opportunity in the future for formal or informal mentoring through the connections made between farmers and the participants, she said.
“We want people to know that one of Homer’s greatest resources is its awesome youth,” Silverman said.
In upcoming classes, participants, also known as “howlers,” will learn how to tie-dye with natural plant dyes and make rope, paper and other products using plant fibers. They also will compete in an extravagant game of capture the flag.
On Aug. 18, the fun wraps up with a banquet. Howlers invite family and friends to enjoy a feast they created using food grown and cultivated during the summer.
Enrollment for a single class, or the whole remaining summer is available. Organizers also are considering extending the program throughout the school year.  
Scholarship opportunities are available through the DiRtBaG (Discount Rates for Boys And Girls) Service Corps.

Wild, sustainable summer
wHEN: Mondays  Noon-4 p.m. (except July 21) May 26-Aug. 18
Cost: $495 for whole summer  ($45 per day)
Ages: 10-14
July 21,
10-6 p.m.: Cottonwood Canyon expedition
July 28,
Noon-4 p.m.: Making paper
from plants
Aug. 4,
Noon-4 p.m.:
Tie-dyeing with plants
Aug. 11,
Noon-4 p.m.:
Creating community around local food
Aug. 18,
Noon-4 p.m.: Wild, sustainable banquet
For schedule updates and more information contact HoWL at 399-4695 or visit www.howlalaska.org.