11 Local Camps That Teach Children About Food and Our Foodshed

Teach a child to fish, cook or garden and you feed them for a lifetime.

This summer why not consider a camp that teaches your children a life skill? Like how to bait a hook, use seine nets, prepare an Italian meal, make butter, grow tomatoes, harvest herbs, raise chickens, milk a goat and the list goes on. By the time September rolls around, your children will be teaching you how to cast a line or how to plan a healthy back-to-school lunch. We have gleaned a list of some of the more intriguing summer programs that are available to Long Island children. Oh, if only we were school age again!

1. Captain Stu’s Fishing Adventure

three girls holding a fish

Captain Stu Paterson, of Northport Charters, runs a one-week fishing camp onboard his 35-foot boat, Sashimi. In its 6th summer, the popular, Captain Stu’s Fishing Adventure, is geared towards boys and girls, ages 8-18.  Leaving from Brittania Yachting Center in Northport and fishing in either Northport or Huntington harbor, kids will learn the basics of fishing: catching their own bait, baiting hooks, casting, reeling in their catch, species identification, rules, regulations and safety. If they catch a keeper (and they catch plenty of keepers), they get to take it home, filleted and in a cooler.

2. Bay Days

two boys fishing

Long Island Maritime Museum, in West Sayville, has an eight-week summer program that explores the coastal environment in and around Great South Bay. Bay Days gives students between the ages of 6-11 an opportunity to encounter plants and animals living along the south shore with visits to the Blue Points Oyster Hatchery, Sailor’s Haven on Fire Island and a sail on the museum’s historic sloop Priscilla.

3. Benner’s Farm


Benner’s Farm, in East Setauket, is a 15-acre private family homestead that has been farmed since the 1700s. The Benners are the seventh family to farm this historic land. In addition to a full calendar of special events, the Benners have been running a summer camp on this working organic farm for the past 17 years. With a camp season lasting eight weeks, they offer weeklong sessions for preschoolers (half day) through counselors-in-training. Activities run the gamut from petting baby bunnies and observing butterflies to making butter and bread to assisting with daily farm chores. There is something new to be learned by every camper of every age at Benner’s Farm.

4. Bayard Cutting Arboretum CSA Farm


Bayard Cutting Arboretum CSA Farm, in Great River, (featured in our spring issue of Edible Long Island) has a great summer program that encourages kids to get their hands dirty while learning and having fun. They offer two sessions: an after-school session (May 14 – June 25) and a summer session (July 2 – July 30). Activities include a general farm tour, learning about seeds, strawberries and three sisters companion planting, caring for their free-range chickens, cooking with vegetables and a CSA scavenger hunt.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County offers many summer programs for students in various locations throughout the county.

5. Suffolk County Farm

boy with dirty hands

The Camp at Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank has a full summer program for children entering kindergarten through 12th grade. Campers are divided into small groups based on age and grade level. The activities range from crafts and exploring the natural world for the youngest campers to actual farm animal care for the older campers.

6. The Children’s Garden

kids in a garden

The Children’s Garden at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank has a program that meets on eight consecutive Wednesdays from 10-11:30am. Children ages 5 and up learn how to grow their own vegetables in raised beds, harvest herbs for dye and culinary uses, grow strawberries and maintain both a butterfly and bird garden.

7. Sea Explorers Marine Camp

kids looking at shellfish

Campers ages 6-8 and 9-12 participating in the Sea Explorers Marine Camp at the Sport Fishing Education Center in Cedar Beach Marina (Babylon) will explore our south shore oceans, bays and salt marshes through interactive hands-on experiences. Sessions 1 and 8 include a visit to Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead and sessions 4 through 6 include a fishing trip in Great South Bay. The Sea Stars Marine Camp offers a similar program for campers on our north shore at Cranberry Hill Environmental Center, Fuch’s Preserve in Northport.

8. A la Carte

kids in a kitchen

A la Carte, a full-service culinary center and cooking school in Lynbrook, has a comprehensive summer program for students age 8+ who are seriously considering a career in the kitchen. Offering two one-week sessions, their Culinary Arts Preliminary Series covers everything from fundamentals to knife skills.

9. Oh my Girls


Oh My Girls is a girls-only health and fitness center in Syosset. Their three one-week summer sessions, geared towards girls ages 8-18, consist of a one-hour fitness class, a one-hour creative or character building workshop, a 90-minute cooking or baking class, lunch and social time followed some quality time at their do-it-yourself smoothie bar. Special workshops include nutrition, self-defense, yoga, Zumba, dancejam, making your own skin care products and lots more. Girl power!

10. Hofstra Culinary Arts Academy

kids making pizza

Hofstra University has an extensive summer camp program. In conjunction with Nassau BOCES; their summer 2014 programs include a Culinary Arts Academy (introduction and intermediate) for students in grades 7-11 and Long Island ecology and field study in marine biology both for grades 6-11.

11. Stony Brook Culinary Academy


Stony Brook University also has a very extensive summer camp program, which they term academies. Their Culinary Academy, for students in grades 3-10 is impressive, offering classes in culinary arts, Italian cuisine, baking 1 & 2, BBQ, Mexican cuisine, nutrition and the science of cooking. Wow.