Farm Run Fundraiser , why are we doing it?

Every year since 2005, Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center has been working to bring low-income, at-risk urban youth to the farm for summer camp and school field trips, at no cost to their families or the schools.  As the children explore the Farm, get dirty, and play safely, they also have a chance to just “be kids” without the responsibility, criticism, and threats of everyday life in the city.

We have found that providing space for exploration with guidance from Fernbrook staff helps youth make important connections to the natural world at a time when most people feel detached from nature and agriculture. We believe by making connections to nature, agriculture, and the sources of food relevant to the children, they will gain a sense of compassion for their environment and each other.

Help give children an experience they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. Register online today to have fun and support this great cause!Our_Classroom copy

Fernbrook Videos!

A quick glance at Summer Camp!

Fernbrook Farms Summer Camp Video

Farmer “Q” talks about why nature is important to our youth.

A typical day at Fernbrook!


Planting a Rain Garden

For a few years, FFEC has dreamed about and planned to add a rain garden at Fernbrook. Last year at this time, Farmer Q planted three River Birch in the wet circle in the middle of the offices and Kerney Barn buildings to get the ball rolling. This October, Fernbrook Homeschool students ages 6-14 learned about the advantages and necessary considerations before planning the design of the Fernbrook rain garden! Pinelands Nursery, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve and Fernbrook Nursery donated the wetland-loving shrubs, ferns and grasses that the students planted. Then in November, the staff prepped the garden for winter with mulch and bird feeders and we are now watching winter birds come to the new rain garden.

Homeschoolers planting in the Rain Garden

In spring, we will watch the garden come back to life showing how the students planned the flower colors and habitat design.  Over time, we plan to add a wooden boardwalk bridge over the middle, a small pond with lilypads and educational signs for visitors.

Letter From Farmer Q

Dear Friends, 
  Technology is a wonderful thing – especially when it works! You’ve probably experienced the frustration of your computer not working the way you want it to or your GPS taking you down the wrong road. ‘Smart’ technology vs. dumb people?! It seems to me that the challenge is to balance all this technology with human relationships. Not only relationships with each other, but with our communities, our land, our food, our environment. 
   Like in so many other places, technology becomes more and more a part of Fernbrook all the time. We use email and Facebook to send program and event updates rather than the postal service. We’re creating online registration for summer camp and eventually you’ll be able to pay for all programs online. Our solar array can be monitored online as well. We’ve planned several more improvements to our Kerney Barn thanks to the continued generous financial support of the James Kerney Foundation. This is what we might call low-tech: cooking appliances, biology, chemistry and physics lab equipment, projector and screen. 
   But the most important aspect of any of this technology at Fernbrook is to allow kids the opportunity to experience their wold firsthand. We want kids to build an Archimedes’ Screw (see article below), not just research it on the internet. We want them to catch a butterfly, dissect a fish, or unearth some creepy, crawly thing from a decomposing log. Children can touch, taste, smell and feel the real, not the virtual, at Fernbrook. They can develop a sense of wonder. They can challenge their curiosities through exploration and hands-on activities. 

Snowy Wedding Gardens
   As winter begins, we often think that our natural world becomes dull and uninteresting. Nature in winter can be a fascinating experience; it’s a different pace – slower, quieter – a valuable lesson in our fast paced, technological world. Put out a bird feeder, look for animal tracks, check out the night skies, and watch the sensational sunsets and sunrises we’ve had.
   During this holiday time of year, we are given the opportunity to stop, listen, see and act with compassion toward our neighbors and our world. May you and your family enjoy a happy and blessed season!
- Larry “Farmer Q” Kuser  

Exciting Camp News and Registrations

The Education Center is thrilled to announce a new structural addition to our facilities which should be completed before the start of Summer Camp 2010 – a low ropes challenge course! Project U.S.E will be constructing three different elements to be used during Monday morning team-building at Summer Camp and through the year for businesses, classes, and scout groups.  These elements will be built in the small meadow between the animal pasture and irrigation pond.  This is in addition to a few portable elements we have/are building and an exciting second grant from the Kerney Foundation to continue improving the classroom, kitchen and lab space in the Kerney Barn.

Along with these announcements, Fernbrook Farms Education Center welcomes all families to check out registration that is now open for our Fiddlehead Summer Day Camp for ages 6-11 and Young Stewards Summer Enrichment Program for ages 12-14. 

Looking for a birthday present for you child or grandchild? Consider giving a summer week or a few school vacation days of special memories, new experiences and friendships forged while exploring 230 acres of Fernbrook Farms.

So many discounts are available such as early registration discounts, sibling discount, returning camper discount, active military discount, and attend 4 or more weeks discount available as in the past.

This year we are also offering a special referral gift.  For each new family that writes your name on the “how did you hear about Fernbrook?” line of their registration form, we will award your family one camp t-shirt of any available size on your first day of camp this summer.  We will be holding three Summer Camp Open Houses for families who are new to Fernbrook to take a tour, meet staff, and learn about our program.  Past families can also come and see the changes.  Bring a new family along to meet the expected babies in the animal barn and get an introduction to 2012 camp.

Lastly, just a reminder that Winter Camp 2012 is held on Martin Luther King, Jr Day, as well as, President’s Day for kids to experience Fernbrook in the wonderful winter. Activities include animal tracking in the snow, winter bird watching, building survival shelters (with snow if we have some), caring for any early animal babies possibly and many other activities to enjoy winter on the Farm. Bring your children to Fernbrook to experience the wonders of Winter Camp with us when they don’t have school!

FFEC Students Build Archimedes Screw

FFEC is working on adding more engineering and alternative energy projects and applications on the property. These students took on a big trial project with the Archimedes Screw at the Fernbrook irrigation pond after building mini waterwheels also during the semester.

The following article was written for our newsletter by Sarah K, 13 years old.

This fall, I participated in the Upper Level Homeschool classes at Fernbrook Farm. Our topic was Water Ecology, and we spent the semester learning about water, its place in nature, and how humans affect the water supply. Six teens attended this semester, and we were educated and entertained by Ms. Pam, our instructor. During the last two classes, we designed and built an Archimedes Screw. An Archimedes Screw is a tool that transports water uphill with out a pump. Though it was rather useful in the time of Archimedes, it isn’t as necessary now as it was back then. Nevertheless, we decided to proceed with our project.

Final Construction Changes

An Archimedes Screw basically looks like a pipe with a giant screw inside it, hence the name “Archimedes Screw”. However, we were unable to find a screw quite big enough at the hardware store. So we chose a different design that used readily accessible materials. To make it, we took a 14-foot PVC drainpipe and wrapped a spiral of aquarium tubing around it, attaching the tubing with duct tape (pink zebra stripes!) It didn’t look awesome, but we hoped it would work. Using more PVC and more duct tape we built a supportive frame and hand crank. We looked at our masterpiece, and thought (or I thought, at least) I really hope this works! It had better work… Then we hauled it down to the pond, and placed it in the spot we had chosen for it. David, a member of the class, stepped forward and began to turn it… and our great Archimedes Screw fell down. Unfortunately there was a problem with one of the supporting poles, which we then fixed. Mostly. Right now, you have to steady the pole after a few cranks of the handle.

If you walk down to the Fernbrook Irrigation Pond, you can see our majestic Archimedes Screw for yourself, and you can marvel that it actually works most of the time!    -    Sarah K.


Continuing Environmental Education in Trenton Schools

This Fall Fernbrook Farms Education Center continued our Unit of Study program

in Trenton City Schools.  We partnered with ISLES in Trenton

Fernbrook Farms partner with ISLES to better educate students about the environment.

which isa non-profit organization that helps educate teachers & students in Trenton school about how to take control of their own physical environment and personal health.  This fall Mr. Jim Simon and I educated over 200 students about Forest Ecology; concentrating on understanding the importance of forests, both for wildlife and for humans.  We worked in three schools; Mercerville Elementary, Village Charter School, and Washington Elementary

Ms. Melissa on Tree ID Hike showing students the Cedar trees.

This program is unique in the way that we spend a total of 4 days with the students and teachers in their school and on the farm.  The first day we visit the school and spend about 40-60 minutes in each participating class teaching them about what a forest is and playing an interactive, educational game. By playing the game the students learn about the basic needs of animals and how the health of the forest has an effect on population growth.  On the second day we introduce the parts of a tree and how a tree works by having the students participate in the Tree Factory activity.  The third day is a field trip to Fernbrook Farms where they move between four investigation stations, including a Tree ID Hike, Soil Investigation, Wildlife Hike, and Forestry Techniques station.  In all of these stations the kids  learn with hands-on experiential learning activities.  Some highlights of the field trip stations have been finding a garter snake during the wildlife hike, investigating FBI (fungus, bacteria, and invertebrate) in our compost pile, tapping a Red Maple tree for Maple syrup, identifying at least 10 trees around Fernbrook Farms, and lastly just enjoying the wonders of the great outdoors.  On the fourth and final day Mr. Jim and I return to the school for a follow- up where we review what the students discovered on their field trip, and what they liked or didn’t like about Fernbrook Farms.  We also read the Dr. Seuss classic The Lorax and review the importance of a forest and understanding the impact of humans on forests.  The most rewarding part of this program comes when Mr. Jim and I receive the “thank you” letters, drawings, and gifts from the students showing us how much this experience has taught them, and how we have affected their life in so many positive and memorable ways.

Ms. Jenna showing students from Washington Elementary how to tap a Red Maple Tree for Maple Syrup.

This program continues in the spring of 2012 and we hope to connect with many more students of Trenton.  We plan to focus on Wetlands Ecology. The students will visit our Pond, Creek, Meadow, and take a Watershed Forest Hike.  Can’t wait to explore Fernbrook Farms in Spring 2012!

–Ms. Jenna

Letter From Farmer Q: Summer 2011

Dear Friends,
As we look forward to summer camp, we can look backwards at a very exciting and successful half year.  Schools from all over the state and Pennsylvania came to Fernbrook for a field trip this spring; over 1,200 students in all! Thanks to the efforts of Miss Claire and Miss Jennifer and all our staff, these kids had a fun, hands-on learning experience. Also we launched our “Unit of Study” program in four Trenton inner-city schools this spring. Based on our evaluation results, these children were engaged and learned a great deal. Check out our other blog posts to see the full results and comments from teachers and students.  Our  Toddler Program continued to gain in popularity. The word is out that Miss Lydia runs a great, fun, learning program – a real live touch and feel experience!  Our physical space has seen a few changes. Thanks to a generous gift from Mary Lehr & Meda Pharmaceuticals, we now have some sophisticated science investigation equipment, including microscopes, lab tables, scales, beakers, test tubes, etc.  The big trees have been planted in the barnyard as the first phase of developing our rain garden. Between that and our new solar panels, the kids will have lots of things to test, measure and chart.  Also, our animals are getting some enlarged pasture space. The goats will have all the area around the old barn, while the sheep will be moved out in a larger area and keep “T-Bone” company.  On a different note, Miss Jennifer is taking the summer off to have a baby; due date is July 13. We wish her all the best and look forward to having her back in the Fall.
As summer begins, all of us at Fernbrook wish each of you a happy, safe, and blessed summer and we hope to see you on the Farm.
Farmer Q

A Spring Full of Field Trips – by Miss Jennifer

DETRITIS!! If you don't know about it, come to Fernbrook Farms Education Center for fun learning.

As summer steps in a very busy spring is now behind us; for the first time in Fernbrook history we were completely booked for school programs during our spring season!  This past season also marks the start of a very successful new program called our Unit of Study Program in which schools incorporate a field trip to Fernbrook with three classes taught by a Fernbrook Instructor at their school.  There are currently six Unit of Study Programs available to schools which allow students to experience the great outdoors of Fernbrook first-hand:  Farm Study, Wetlands Study, Forest Ecology Study, Adaptations Study, School Garden Study, and Nature Labs Study.

In our effort to reach as many children as possible, we have also recently launched our new Outreach Program thanks to a partnership with Little Fish Theatre (a theatre company that is also in partnership with Adventure Aquarium for their outreaches).  There are three Outreach Programs currently available that will come to your school, library, festival, or special event.  “Rock the Boat!  Barnyard Boogie” is a live band that plays original children’s music about life on the farm, playing outside, and nature in a fun style that will have children of all ages up on their feet dancing and singing along.  “The History of Food (In 40 minutes or less!)” is a hilarious, fast-paced play about the complete history of food and farming from cavemen to today.  “Of Plastic Things and Butterfly’s Wings:  An Environmental Fable” is a found object puppet show that explores watershed and non-source point pollution from field to ocean in order to teach us all about the importance of caring for the environment.

If you are interested in booking any of our new programs or existing ones or would like more information, please contact us at or 609-298-4028.  In other news, I’m also happy to report that I will be on maternity leave this summer.  I will be back in mid-September, but in the mean time all School Program questions can be directed to Claire Wildermuth, Director of Public Programs, or Marna Matthews, Administrative Assistant.

Get outside and have a great summer!

Jennifer Totora

Director of School Programs


Mother’s Day Brunch Coming Up on May 8th

Treat Mom to a catered lunch at the Inn to support a great cause!

Come join us on Sunday May 8th, 2011 at Fernbrook Farms for a Mother’s Day Brunch at the Inn at Fernbrook! Two seatings at 10am and 12:30pm will be catered by Main Street Catering of Princeton, NJ and half the proceeds go to the Fernbrook Farms Education Center to benefit our Urban Youth Program. This is a great opportunity to treat Mom (or Grams or Aunt Sally or a friend) to a catered meal with complimentary flower AND benefit a great cause. You can also walk the wedding gardens in beautiful spring bloom, visit the barn animals, and take a wagon ride tour of the Farm.

RSVP required! Email for more information or registration forms.