A partnership between PEC and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia has created new opportunities for Orange County youth to experience the natural environment and history of the surrounding region.
In the summer, the youth monitored bluebird boxes, picked blueberries at the Market at Grelen, paddled the Rapidan River and hiked along the Appalachian Trail. “Based on the kinds of invertebrates collected, the kids discovered that the Rapidan River’s water quality rates very high,” remarked Peter Hujik, land conservation officer for PEC.
Fall activities included picking apples at Carter Mountain and learning about raising turkeys at Retreat Farm, which is under a conservation easement, protecting over 575 acres of farmland. The group also plans to cut a couple of evergreen trees for the holidays at Elysium Tree Farm in December.
Picking apples in the fog, exploring working farms, cutting evergreens on a brisk winter day make positive, lasting impressions for the kids.
At the end of the recent tour to Retreat Farm, the kids shouted, “Thank you!,” expressing their gratitude to farm manager Frank Gillan for sharing his insights into the behavior and life cycles of farm animals. In a second round of praise—an apt attitude during harvest season—the kids thanked the Market at Grelen for the locally sourced and prepared lunches they enjoyed before departing the farm.
“Many of the youth we serve have limited access to the natural environment, and connecting with nature is important to their growth and development,” said Nancy Wiley, the board president of the Orange Boys & Girls Club and former PEC board member, who was instrumental in establishing the partnership. “Picking apples in the fog, exploring working farms, cutting evergreens on a brisk winter day make positive, lasting impressions for the kids.”
This past year, PEC and The Boys & Girls Clubs received a grant from the Bama Works Fund of Dave Matthews Band in the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, which is funding the monthly field trips for 40 Orange County members of the Boys & Girls Club. PEC is working with many partners, such as the Old Rag Master Naturalists, local farms, Montpelier Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to make this program possible.
This article was featured in our Winter 2014 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.