THE READER
July 2006

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Kamp Kenwood: Cooperating for Change

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Wisconsin Farmers Union's

Kamp Kenwood
Cooperating for Change

by Cathy Statz, Education Director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union

Fair Trade coffee; fresh, local food; friends; shared values; and the cooperative spirit. Sound like a walk down the aisle at your local food co-op? Probably does. It’s also what you’ll find during a co-op camp session at Kamp Kenwood

Each summer, kids from the Midwest and beyond come to spend a few days in the pine woods on the shores of Lake Wissota near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin for an experience of cooperation, fellowship and fun at Wisconsin Farmers Union’s summer camp program. (Willy Street Co-op is a regular sponsor of the camp.)

While “Farmers” is the name, this camp isn’t just for farm kids. While some campers come from farms and rural communities, others come from cities like Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Madison, or from as far away as the states of New York and Missouri.
Since the 1930s, WFU’s camp program has taught kids about the history and values of the cooperative movement, as well as the ways in which co-ops touch people and their communities today. Hands-on simulations make the learning fun; campers might be asked to develop a member equity drive for a 1950s era drive-in restaurant co-op, or make business decisions as members of a cocoa farmers’ co-op in Ghana.

A cornerstone of the camp experience is the creation of the Co-op Store, which sells treats and camp souvenirs. In keeping with cooperative principles, the campers themselves run the business, sell shares, elect a board of directors, and receive a dividend based on their purchases. On the last day of camp, members select a charitable organization or camp improvement to benefit from any remaining profit.

Past camps have also featured workshops that ranged from leadership development to international trade simulations to environmental sustainability education. Guest speakers have included representatives from co-ops, credit unions and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms, as well as returned Peace Corps volunteers.
Keep in mind this is still summer camp; not all the learning takes place indoors. Campers have time for sports and games, swimming in the lake, hiking in the woods, or just hanging out with friends. Art, music, and drama teams meet each afternoon to prepare for the Evening Program, which features skits, songs and cooperative adventure-themed games. Past evening themes have included Pirate Night, Highland Games Night and
Pioneer Night. Each evening closes with a dance (folk or modern) or a campfire.

All around the country are local co-op managers, employees and board members who first learned about cooperatives when they attended Farmers Union Camp as kids. We can begin to develop tomorrow’s cooperative leaders today.

For more information

To register or for more information, contact WFU at 1-800-272-5531 or cstatz@wisconsinfarmersunion.com. The camp program is sponsored in
part by the CHS Foundation and by local co-ops and credit unions.