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.
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 Minneapolis and Milwaukee, or from as far away as the states of New York and Missouri.

Making learning fun

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.

Workshops

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.

Outdoor learning and fun

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 theme 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.

2007 camp dates

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.

The 2007 camp dates are the following:

Ages 8-12 ($70):

Junior 1 Camp­, June 19th-22nd;
Junior 2 Camp, August 12th-15th
Ages 12-14 ($75):
Junior High 1 Camp, June 11th-15th;
Junior High 2 Camp, August 6th-10th
Ages 14-18 ($80):
Senior Camp, June 24th-28th

Non-members add $30 per family for WFU membership. Ask about our Intergenerational Family Camp for all ages, June 22-23. To register or for more information, contact Cathy at 1-800-272-5531 or cstatz@wisconsinfarmersunion.com, or online at www.kampkenwood.com. Registration continues until sessions fill; space is limited. The camp program is sponsored in part by a cooperative education grant from the CHS Foundation and by local co-ops, including Willy Street Co-op, and credit unions.