Marcus Benson had one of the tougher jobs. He had to fill buckets with water, carry them to individual tomato plants and give their roots a drink.
In the mid-morning sun at the Blue Earth County Community Farm, the 10-year-old had his work cut out for him, while other kids got to use the hose. It’s a lot of work, Benson agreed. But worth it. And he’s glad the Community Education & Recreation summer ENCORE program gives him the opportunity to have these kinds of experiences.
“It’s really good,” he said. “I like it.”
Sharon K. Bjornson, Rosa Parks Encore supervisor, said the Encore program is part of the ACES childcare program through community ed. The program provides supervision, meals and activities for kids before and after school during the school year and all day until 6 p.m. during summers while their parents are at work.
The Encore program is for fifth- through seventh-graders, and about 30 kids are registered. During the day, that age group is separated from the other ACES kids for special activities and programming, Bjornson said.
On Wednesday, larger field trips take the kids to places such as water parks and Lynx games.
Service learning is a big component of the program, including trips to Misfit Acres horse sanctuary where students help out with chores. They also visit Gus Johnson Plaza and help with the Meals on Wheels program, and they go to Pathstone Living to do crafts, play bingo and do manicures.
On Tuesdays the kids alternate between craft projects and playing with toddlers at the Lincoln Community Center, as well as working at the community farm. This Tuesday’s visit included harvesting and watering.
Joe Domeier, community farm manager, taught the kids the tricks of the trade and prepared them for the worst as he was about to turn the hose on.
“I saw a person melt once because they got wet,” Domeier said, looking down at his wet T-shirt. “I’m kind of melting right now.”
Aids Troy Studer, Lisa Jacobs and Casey Marble said the kids have visited the farm once before and helped weed, water and till soil — which don’t sound like activities that many middle school-age kids would consider fun. But these kids like it a lot, they said.
“They are enjoying it quite a bit,” Marble said.