Third generation farmer finds creative ways for kids to explore agriculture
MARSHFIELD - Martin Wolf has always had a passion for agriculture. The third-generation farmer passes the craft on with Memory Lane Farm, host to a new educational camp where kids explore his farm with hands-on activities.
Wolf's family has farmed for a century on the south end of Marshfield on Heritage Drive.
Martin and his wife Lucille are used to having people and kids running around their farm. From you-pick pumpkins to horse-drawn sleigh rides to corn mazes, Martin has been doing something involving kids and agriculture for nearly his entire life.
It started, he said, when his mother's side of the family, who didn't have background on farms, came up from Milwaukee.
"I just remember they got out of the car and they never seen anything like this," Martin Wolf said. "It was fun to show them around the farm."
Wolf and his wife were active leaders in 4-H for over 25 years, sparking other youth to develop an interest in agriculture. They retired from dairy farming in 1996, but still have horses, goats, chickens and gardens on their on his 160-acre property.
Now he and his daughter, Beth Zarnke, have started a new program called AgriVenture. Kids work in five stations taught by local volunteers to learn various hands-on projects over the two-week camp. AgriVenture's first summer of activities happened last month, and it was enough of a hit that Wolf and Zarnke plan to keep it going next summer and into the future, Zarnke said.
The five areas kids worked in are: gardening, arts and crafts, animal care, forestry and woodworking.
"There were some kids who came in shy and nervous, but by the second or third session they were just into it," Zarnke said. "To see kids growing, interacting and having fun was exactly what we had envisioned for AgriVenture."
Zarnke said she is working on making AgriVenture a nonprofit entity.
The purpose of AgriVenture is to encourage youth in a hands-on environment to explore nature, agriculture and animals. No cellphones are allowed. This year's camp took place June 6 through June 8 and June 13 through June 15 and Zarnke will be adding more nuances to the camp next year.
"This was something we wanted: for kids to be able to be kids," Wolf said. "We wanted to give them something to have fun, be themselves and explore."
Zarnke, a pastor at North Ridge Church in Marshfield, and Wolf stressed faith as well.
Among the various things kids learned in the stations: how maple syrup is made, making butter and ice cream, seeing natural habitats, how to prepare and plant a garden, use of farm animals and building wooden marble mazes.
"Seeing kids enjoy themselves while learning and getting their hands dirty was extremely rewarding," Wolf said.
The making of ice cream and tasting it and the arts segment was a favorite for the kids, Zarnke said. Zarnke said the camp was very impactful for her and her father as well as the kids. According to Zarnke 220 people attended the concluding camp night to share in a picnic meal, watch the camp program and play games.
"We wanted to give people a different but simple experience," Zarnke said. "You wouldn't believe how many people enjoyed the simplicity. A lot of people are hungry for that farm environment."