TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Good Earth Farm owner Nancy Fried Tobin is thrilled to offer a two-week camp, dubbed Kind Kamp, over the Christmas break in partnership with the Brighter Future Foundation. She first met with the foundation’s executive director and founder, Stephanie Montalvo, six months ago.
“I began the Brighter Future Foundation, or BFF, as we affectionately call it, in 2011,” Stephanie said. “Growing up on a small farm in South Jersey, I raised organic vegetables, fruits and grains, and cared for animals, everything from cats to chickens to dogs to goats. I loved every minute of it. Later, I worked in the entertainment industry, performing on stage, film and TV as a dancer, actress, singer and model, but I never lost my love of nature, which has so many healing elements for the mind, body and spirit.”
Fast-forward to 2011. Stephanie was rehabbing after a car accident. Her physical therapist recommended pulling weeds, because the motion was similar to her physical therapy exercises. When Stephanie learned that a local wildlife center was ending its domestic animal program and 11 rabbits were on the edge of being put down because they could not be placed, she saw an opportunity. Bunny droppings make great fertilizer! A friend built a giant hutch, and the 11 rabbits moved in. Stephanie was being healed by reconnecting with nature. She realized this could be a great way to teach others how to work with animals, such as rabbits, chickens and especially herbivores, in urban and suburban gardens. Stephanie was eager to share her passion, which led to BFF.
The Brighter Future Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing its participants with experiential learning adventures that educate about humane animal care and practices, and enhanced environmental awareness, implementation and appreciation using the arts as a medium, while empowering youth from underserved communities to become leaders and effect positive change in the natural world.
Their programs include helping organizations create fundraisers around native garden installations, butterfly garden installations and native wildflower garden installations highlighting solar water features. To date, BFF has given away or planted more than 16,500 trees, conducted countless seminars and PowerPoint presentations, and advised government agencies, homeowners associations and clubs.
“BFF was born to save animals and people from their detachment from nature, and, hopefully, in the process, save our planet’s amazing ecosystems,” Stephanie said. “We don’t want to solve symptoms, we want to figure out easy solutions to complex issues and make positive changes to society. We want to inspire people to get involved.”
BFF also believes in hands-on learning and education.
“We believe that the arts have a powerful ability to deliver messages,” Stephanie said. “We’re dedicated to sharing our appreciation and love of animals and nature through our programs. We combine performing and visual arts to share our love of science with the world.”
Kind Kamp shares science-based information in an easy-to-digest format featuring theatrical presentations, visual arts and hands-on learning. Chat circles encourage exploration and inspire new ways of thinking. Kids are encouraged to practice and share what they’ve learned with their families
Which is where Kind Kamp at the Good Earth Farm comes in. The first Kind Kamp ran in 2013, and it has evolved since then. This year’s Kind Kamp, limited to 25 attendees, is open to children ages 8 to 12 on a first-come, first-served basis. It will run Monday through Friday, Dec. 19-23 and Dec. 26-30. Signups close Thursday, Dec. 15. The cost is $298 per week, and children can opt to attend one or both weeks.
“The day runs 9-3, and the only clothing requirement is that children have to wear boots,” Stephanie said. “They should also bring along lunch, snacks and water or a drink. During the week, they’ll participate in many hands-on, science-based experiences involving native plants and a variety of animals, which is why we’re such a good fit with the Good Earth Farm.”
Nancy loves the way Stephanie integrates ecology and animals into a fun program. “Connecting with plants and animals can only help them, as well as aiding the environment,” Nancy said. “The kids will be planting seedlings, learning how native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife. They’ll learn about flyways, and how important it is that native plants are available to provide food for migratory birds and butterflies. Last month she had a program, in conjunction with a wildlife care center, where she had a group of children out here to help with the release of 10 squirrels, seven ducks and three tortoises.”
Kind Kamp also incorporates the arts, painting, drawing, singing, dancing and theatrical productions.
“The arts are a great way to teach ecology. The Good Earth Farm will be providing many opportunities for the campers to interact with a variety of animals. We have over 80 parrots and birds, cows, sheep, guinea pigs, a zebra, donkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, and regular and miniature horses,” Nancy said. “This is a wonderful way for children to interact intimately with all kinds of creatures and to learn how different animals have different likes, dislikes and personalities. If a child learns how to train a chicken, it’s easy to go home and train their dog. It’s a cool way for kids who love animals to learn all about them.”
Stephanie and Nancy hope to offer Kind Kamp again, possibly during the summer. They’re also considering involving the parents and possibly adding overnight stays.
“Kind Kamp will be an amazing time for everyone,” Stephanie said. “It’s a way to connect to the Earth and practice community values of being kind to everyone and every living thing. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”