Tangible Change - Jonathan's Longacre Experience

One of the most gratifying aspects of working in summer camping is seeing real, tangible change in the young people that come here. We recently had the opportunity to work with Jonathan, who left behind city life for three weeks to join us on the Farm.  Each year we work to bring young people in from all over the country (and the world) – people with different life experiences, gifts, and challenges – to help them come together in community and grow alongside one another. I love how Jonathan describes how powerful the experience was for him, and would love for you to read about his experience in his own words. Enjoy!

“When my mom first approached me and told me about Longacre Leadership, I have to admit; I was skeptical. I was not excited about going for fear of bugs and wild animals. When we arrived, the campsite blew my breath away. 

The great parts of Longacre were the activities, the leadership skills I acquired, and the freedom. Every day we would have activities that were fun but also taught us various lessons along the way. For example, an activity that I went to was horseback riding. The first thing I expected to do was saddle up and ride! I found out that before we could ride we had to shovel horse manure, groom the horses and feed them! Not exactly what I was looking forward to. But I realized that in order for the horses to be comfortable, healthy and in good shape, these things needed to be done. We learned a lot of leadership skills as well, such as how to solve disputes when they arose and how to mediate a situation. While all this happened, we were free to live and grow. We went on field trips to Hershey Park and other places, and the camp gave us the freedom of walking around with just one other person. We explored the camp by ourselves and were given the responsibility to do the right thing.

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All of these factors contributed to me not only having a good time at Longacre but growing as a person as well. I left home as a child and came back as an almost fully mature young man. My mom continues to tell me how she sees a change in me and that she hopes that I keep up the good work. I loved Longacre and I deeply appreciate A Better Chance for what they did to help me take advantage of that awesome opportunity. With Longacre’s help, I have conquered my city mentality, my fear of bugs and wild animals and picked up leadership skills that can not only be utilized in school but in my day to day life.”

  • Jonathan, age 12.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Jonathan, and to all of our partners that help kids come out to summer camp each summer.

So what do you think? If the transformative experience Jonathan describes is something you’re interested in, we still have spots available for this summer. We hope you’ll join us. 

What Trees Can Teach us about Open and Honest Communication

“Can I say something hard?”

Over the past three and a half months, I have found myself saying this phrase out loud often. I will say this to my family, my closest friends, people I met only a month or two ago, and to my new coworkers. I have found that I use this phrase when I want to say something out loud that I know will be either difficult for me to say or difficult for someone to hear. I learned this phrase from Louise, who learned it from Susan, who built Longacre on the idea of open and honest communication. Yesterday, a new friend of mine pointed out to me that I say that phrase often, and it really got me thinking about how I communicate.

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I’ve been living at the Longacre Farm for three and a half months, and I have already noticed a huge difference in how I communicate with others. Louise lives open and honest communication, not just during the summer, but all the time. She has been empowering me to be open and honest as well. If you ask anyone who knows me well, they will tell you that I am an open book, but I have been communicating more openly and honestly than I thought would be possible. I find that my relationships are fuller, and my self worth is stronger. I also find that when I practice open and honest communication, those people feel the same way; richer relationships and empowered sense of self.

I found an article today, about how Trees can communicate with one another. This article shared the research of Suzzane Simard, an ecology professor and forester who has devoted a long period of her life to the Canadian Forests. In her TedTalk, she explains her story of discovering how the trees in the forest send carbon to one another when they need help. She explains the relationship of trees are a “two-way street”, and that the two trees in her experiment, Fir and Birch, were like “yin and yang”. They had been communicating in so many different ways, in different times of the year, when each tree needed a little bit of help. You should definitely watch the TedTalk if you haven’t already. Or read, The Secret Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which was my summer book last year, or this NPR Article that summarizes the book. Trees are incredible, and I think that it is not coincidence that Summer Camps happen in the forest, surrounded by trees. That’s a whole other blog post I could write!

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Just like trees, at Longacre we communicate to help one another. Our communication is not for our benefit only, but for the benefit of the entire community. Just as the forests will self heal themselves through cooperation and diversity, we believe that we can do the same at Longacre when we practice open and honest communication. When you join us this summer, we will use communication as a tool, for each one of us to find our most authentic selves.

I’ve already experienced this growth in myself, and the summer hasn’t even begun. I can’t wait to experience a summer full of great conversation with all of you. I hope you will join us.

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With love,
Lindsay

LINDSAY HUTCHINSON
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LINDSAY@LONGACRE.COM

 

Responsibility and Relationship Building: Harper the Rescue Horse

Longacre has been instilling the ideas of responsibility and relationship for years. We make new friends, connect to our peers through open and honest communication, and all take responsibility for making our camp the best it can be. Longacre is unique to other camps, where these ideas of responsibility and relationship building don't just involve humans. The relationships built with animals at the Farm are just as special to our farmers as they are to their new friends.

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Many of our farmers are connected to our Horses. Weeze has a huge passion for these beautiful animals, and she has been teaching our campers all thing quine: riding, grooming, training, and general horse care. Our farmers who are invested in horses and want to learn more also visit other Horse stables and trainers, work with the vet, and do advanced riding. One of the most unique things that we do here at the Farm is Rescue horses. With Weeze's knowledge, strength, and passion, we are able to care for and provide a home for horses who otherwise wouldn't be able to survive.

Meet Harper. Harper was just rescued by Louise, and she arrived two weeks ago. Weeze narrates this video so that you can see what Harper has been through and all of the things that we need to do to take care of her. This summer, we hope that everyone will be able to shower her with love, and give her the supportive, peaceful, caring community that we all deserve.

 

To learn more about our Horse Programs at Longacre Farm, please call us 717-567-3349. We look forward to riding with you.

With love,
Lindsay

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LINDSAY HUTCHINSON
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LINDSAY@LONGACRE.COM

Billie Jean King: Finding Our Most Authentic Selves

This past week, Weeze and I were fortunate enough to attend the TriState Camp Conference with over 4000 camp professionals. We learned so much. We listened so much. We shared so much. The week was exhausting, rejuvenating, and inspiring. 

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One of the most impactful parts of this conference was the closing keynote speaker, Billie Jean King. You heard that right. One of the most impactful women in sports and in the women's movement spoke to the Camping Industry about her story, her struggles, her successes. If you don't know much about her, you can read this article,  or watch this Ted Talk from 2015,  or this movie "Battle of the Sexes", a movie about her life and the most important game in athletic history (in my humble opinion). She is a spitfire! Her energy made Weeze and I crack up laughing and cry from inspiration at the same time. I call those, Power Tears (more on that in a future blog post). 

Billie Jean spent a good part of her speech talking about finding your most authentic self, and the power that camp has to empower youth to live their best lives. Wow. The first time she mentioned living authentically, Weeze and I both looked at each other at the same time, and whispered, "That's us. That's our mission. That's what Longacre does."

Finding your most authentic self is not easy, especially when the pressures of society are at an all time high. At camp, we give campers a space to be: to be still, to be present, to be heard, to be surrounded by supportive adults, to be themselves. When you focus on yourself, you are able to discover more about who you are when you are your best. This is the essence of Longacre. We will empower you to be exactly who you are meant to be, by giving you opportunities to practice being your most authentic, genuine, true, self.

Billie Jean stated, "Girls are taught to be perfect, boys are taught to be brave. But no one is perfect and no one is brave all the time." At Longacre, we hope to inspire this idea, and many of the lessons that BJK taught the world, which will inspire and empower all of our campers to find and live their most authentic selves. 

We hope you join us this summer!
With love,
Lindsay

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LINDSAY HUTCHINSON
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LINDSAY@LONGACRE.COM

Longacre's March Madness: A Chance to Earn A Free Session!

In the spirit of the NCAA March Maddness Basketball Tournament, Longacre will be hosting our very own Camp Recruitment March Maddness. Similar to the basketball tournament, every level the benefits get even better, with 6 "Rounds" or levels of Camper Recruitment. The benefits being tuition discounts for you and your friends, totaling up to an entire free 3-week session! 

Round one: If you and your family recruit one camper to join us for Summer 2018, both families will receive $250 off tuition.

Round two: if your family recruits two campers to join us, your family will receive an additional $350 off tuition (totaling $600), and the second camper will receive $250 off their tuition.

Sweet 16 (round 3): if your family recruits a third camper to join us, your family will receive an additional $500 off tuition ($1100 off tuition), and the third camper will receive $250 off their tuition.

Elite 8 (round 4): if your family recruits a fourth camper to join us, your family will receive an additional $700 off tuition ($1800 off tuition total), and the fourth camper will receive $250 off of their tuition.

Final 4 (round 5): if your family recruits a fifth camper to join us, your family will receive an additional $1000 off of tuition ($2800 of tuition), and the fifth camper will receive $250 off our their tuition.

The Finals (round 6): if your family recruits a sixth camper to join us, your family will receive a free 3-week session tuition for your camper ($4324 off total), and the sixth camper will revive $250 off their tuition.

If you are alumni, or don't have anyone camper aged in your family, you can still participate, and then give your tuition "winnings" to any child in your life that deserves a Longacre Experience, whether this is someone you know, someone registered for camp already, or a child who may otherwise not be able to afford camp. 

All participants will be entered into a raffle drawing for a free "family farm weekend" at Longacre Farm in Fall 2018.

Why do we do this? We believe that the people who understand our camp the most are the ones who have experienced it and can share their love for Longacre with the people they know! We also believe that the more kids at camp the better! So spread the word! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact Lindsay or Louise at 717-567-3349 or lindsay@longacre.com.

 

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LINDSAY HUTCHINSON
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LINDSAY@LONGACRE.COM

Dive into Direct Communication: How openness and honesty are core to the Longacre experience

I truly believe in direct communication, it has become an identifiable piece of who I am. The same way I am identified as a horse lover, a Camp Director or a person committed to equality, I am a person dedicated to direct communication. Now if you had asked me as an 18 year old, lets say, “what do you think direct communication is?” it would not have been close to what I now understand it to be.

So what is direct Communication? Well there are different ways to communicate and probably different definitions of what people think of as direct communication. At Longacre it is the belief that we are happiest in our lives if we are our most authentic selves. We can only truly get there if we are aware of how we move through the world and how we impact others. At Longacre sharing stuff about ourselves and hearing feedback is how we get there. Susan Smith does a way great job of explaining this, I can hear her voice right now!

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In 2006 Susan hired me to be the horse staff member at Longacre. It was my first job in America after marrying Jake and choosing to move across the pond. What an experience!!! There is no way I could list the lessons learned, the experiences gained or the importance of that summer. Group, Longacre’s communication model, was so foreign to me, sitting in the Octagon that first night in 2006 was scary and yet also liberating. “So I can really express to this group of strangers how I am feeling? And it’s ok? Even if I feel sad or angry or unsure?” NO WAY.

That first summer Susan was patient and encouraging. My thoughts were valuable and it was ok to not seem “together” all the time. Being vulnerable and real brought me closer to other people, I was not judged, I was able to just be myself. I found that I was happier, lighter, I was not always thinking about what others thought of me or trying to read between the lines of what people were saying. Because we were all dedicated to this idea of speaking your truth. It also got me thinking about how I was as an employee, a member of a team, was I listening to others? Was I acting selfishly? The list goes on.

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So maybe some people think “yeah of course, honesty is the best policy” but it is super hard to always be able to identify your truth and then speak it to others in a caring and clear way. I used to be really defensive, and found it difficult to hear feedback from others, I would think, “ they didn't understand where I was coming from”, or “I didn't mean it that way”. I couldn't hear them.

2018 will be my 13th summer at Longacre. I feel so grateful and as committed to direct communication as ever. Now don’t get me wrong it’s not always easy to hear uncomfortable feedback from a friend, a camper, a staffer or a family member. It stings a little, yet I am at a point now where my first feeling is gratitude that someone else is giving me the gift of their honesty.

I have found that my relationships with others are closer. I feel especially close to my sisters, Rachel and Natasha. They understand and know me better than ever, through sharing thoughts and sometimes difficult feelings with them and hearing their feedback. I feel like I am more the person I want to be, I am being true to myself and others in my life.

This is the gift we give to farmers every summer at Longacre.

That first night of this summer in the Octagon I will look around at the faces of our farmers and know we are creating a space where they can think about who and how they want to be in this world. That we are committed to supporting them on this journey.

With love,
Weeze

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WEEZE
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LOUISE@LONGACRE.COM

Going Deeper on our Four Pillars: Why we put campers in the position to make decisions

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If you’re familiar with Longacre, you know that everything we do is supported by our “four pillars” of Decision-Making, Responsibility, Passion, and Direct Communication. You can check out our about page for a paragraph or two on why each is important to us, but we thought it would be fun to go a little deeper and discuss why these pillars are fundamental to the Longacre summer camp experience.

Today, I’m going to dive into why we are so passionate about empowering our summer campers to make as many decisions for themselves as is feasible. I didn’t always feel this way, and I’d love to share why I changed my mind.

 James at camp...

James at camp...

A little background on my summer camp experience might be helpful, here. I grew up at a camp that ran according to a “small group” camping model, which is camp-speak for a community where campers are put in small “family” groups that then stick together for all of their activities throughout their time at camp. Counselors would schedule most of the camp activities at the beginning of a session, and the kids were expected to go along with what was planned for them.

For the most part, this worked pretty well. The counselors did their best to plan fun and engaging activities that spanned different types of interests, and the kids were happy to be making new friends and sleeping away from home. Sounds pretty good right? I thought so. I had the time of my life at camp. I ultimately became a counselor, and then an area director, and ultimately the Program Director. And as you can probably tell, kids at that camp made almost no decisions for themselves. So why did I have such a change of heart?

Well, the truth is that making decisions for other people is a pretty difficult thing to do. As a camper I only saw things through the lens of my experience. I loved the social aspect of camp, and the rest of it was just scenery. Sure, I didn’t love every single activity, but for me camp wasn’t really about the activities. I could goof off with my friends during Arts and Crafts, or make excuses to get out of swimming lessons, or whatever. In a lot of ways camp was like school but with better classes and more recess. And it was definitely better than sitting around at home and being worried that I was getting left out of whatever the “cooler” kids were doing.

As I gained more responsibility at that camp, though, I made a disquieting observation: this model of camp was really not working for everyone. Sure, most kids were doing fine. But when you’re in charge it doesn’t take long to notice just how many kids aren’t doing fine. At first I wanted to write off their concerns – “Boring? What do you mean? I had so much fun at camp…”. So we buckled down and tried to come up with more fun things to do, but it still wasn’t totally working.

And it makes sense, right? As an adult it’s pretty easy for me to see that I wouldn’t want some well-meaning authority figure forcing me to do activities that they thought would be engaging or enriching for me. I’d resent the times where I felt bored, and would experience a lot less joy from the fun activities as well.

We’ve arrived at reason #1 for making space for people to make their own decisions: Having other people make your decisions for you is less fun than making them for yourself.

But should all of life be about just having fun? What about helping campers grow as well?

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MAKING YOUR OWN DECISIONS ISN’T ALWAYS FUN AND GAMES

First things first – at the first stop in my camping career, I never actually figured out that kids would have more fun if they made decisions for themselves. It didn’t even occur to me, in fact, until I made the next stop in my camping journey, when I took over as the Executive Director of a small non-profit camp in Upstate New York. This camp had a choice-based schedule much like Longacre’s, where kids chose most of their own activities from a set of pre-planned options.

Right away I could tell the kids were having more fun, but I’ll admit that I was a little concerned: were these kids going to grow as much as the kids at the camp where I grew up without getting exposure to a diverse and carefully cultivated set of activities?

It turns out that yes, they most certainly did. But they didn’t grow in the same ways.

You see, the growth from making one’s own decisions can be painful sometimes. It means sometimes missing out on an activity that could have been a lot of fun. It means sometimes making a decision that you’ll later regret. It can mean not following your instincts when you wished you would have, or being lazy when you know you should have worked harder, or letting someone down when you wished you wouldn’t have.

That sounds kind of awful, so why would we want that at camp?

Well, it turns out that at some point everyone is going to have to make their own decisions. And like a lot of things, in my experience, practicing making decisions at a younger age can lead to better decision making as the stakes increase. I remember getting to college after a couple of summers working at sleepaway camp and seeing a lot of my peers, many of whom excelled in environments where their decisions were made for them, use their newfound freedom to disastrous results.

While some of our campers will make bad decisions, the downside of making them at summer camp is a heck of a lot less than it will be elsewhere. And when campers are trying to process the results of their decisions, our expertly trained staff help them reflect upon their decisions and try to prepare to make better ones next time.

While this might sound hard for our campers, I actually think it’s wildly empowering. When a camper knows that they are responsible for how things are going for them, they also understand that they have the power to change their circumstances. I think that many people are frustrated with their lot in life because they feel powerless to change it. For many young people, this is literally true. At Longacre? Not so much. Our campers know from the moment they arrive that they’ll be writing their own story here, and they know we’ll support them if it feels like it’s getting off-track. We also feel confident, based on countless feedback we’ve received, that many of our past campers have taken this new outlook on life with them after they’ve left.

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DECISION MAKING AT LONGACRE AND BEYOND

As I get more experience working with young people, I can’t help but wonder if our priorities in helping them develop skills are misplaced. Our schools spend more than a decade trying to teach them math, and English, and whatever else – but what if we spent some of that time trying to equip them with the decision making ability to determine what’s important to them? Isn’t better decision making sort of a super power that unlocks so much of the beauty and fulfillment that life has to offer?

We don’t have the opportunity to work with kids as long as schools do, but we do have the chance to help them practice for 3-6 weeks at a time. We relish the opportunity to create this sacred space for decision making, and feel honored to be a part of whatever reflection happens afterward.

Hope to see you for more good, bad, and ugly decision making this summer!

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JAMES DAVIS
OWNER/MANAGER
JAMES@LONGACRE.COM

Big Kids: Our staff are forever kids at heart... Returning staff announced!

One of my favorite aspects of working at a summer camp is the people. Every summer, The Farm is filled to the brim with amazing staff and farmers. Our quiet and sleepy farm bubbles to life as the summer begins. Catching up and reconnecting with returning peeps is a serious gift for me. 

When amazing staff create time in their busy schedules to get to Longacre, for another summer, it means so much to me both personally and professionally. Creating a team that believes in this place and the students that attend is like building the foundation to creating an amazing summer experience. 

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As soon as the announcements went out in October that Longacre was beginning a new phase with James, Jack and Doug, Big Kids (what we lovingly call our staff) started calling me. Aziza Khalil was the first to commit to being with us this summer. Man are we lucky. Aziza has been with us for four summers. She is one of the most compassionate, open minded and selfless people I have ever met, truly one of the most beautiful people inside and out. Aziza loves our farm and our kids. She has the uncanny ability to make farmers feel heard and understood. 

Aziza will work closely with Lindsay this summer making sure all our farmers have what they need and communicating with families throughout the summer.

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Then came more great news. LJ has also signed on for this summer. A powerhouse of a woman. An amazing role model for both girls and boys. For two summers LJ has been one of our animal honchos, which is a seriously important job. Under her watchful eye our animals receive the best possible care and farmers learn hard skills in animal husbandry. I love the fact that LJ can be found one morning cleaning out the pig pen, hard and dirty work, and then that afternoon practicing yoga in the Art Barn. Talk about the whole package.

 

Maddie, Mark and Tallulah Fortelka are signed up to be on our Mini Camp Staff team. Tallulah will be 15 months and a solid member of the team!!! Also pictured, Mildred the turkey.

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Of course Jake will be with us cooking, chopping wood and whatever other trouble he can get into.

The start of an amazing staff team I would say.

What makes a good staff member, or Big Kid? as we lovingly call our staff. Passion, enthusiasm and an open mind are the cornerstone of succeeding at The Farm. I tell all potential staff this may be the most physically demanding work you may ever do but also the most rewarding. 

Lindsay and I are so excited to work with both new and returning staff this year. If you are interested in learning more about our program and staff opportunities for 2018 please reach out and let us know. You can fill out the staff inquiry form, call the number below, or email me at louise@longacre.com.

Love,
Weeze

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WEEZE
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LOUISE@LONGACRE.COM

From Teenage Anxiety to Self Actualization - Why Summer Camp Matters

When we think about the major shifts in child and teen development over the last 30 or 40 years, many things come to mind. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences totally transformed the educational paradigm of the 80s and 90s, helping people to understand that children learn (and can be smart) in more ways than just the academic ones. 

Carol Dweck's Mindset has led to some important and fundamental changes in the last 10 years - urging instructors to help kids focus on the things about them they can control, rather than the things beyond their control.

Child development theorists like Peter Gray have been pointing to research suggesting that environments where children can be more self-directed help them to thrive best, and we've seen an explosion in alternative approaches to education like Free Schools, Sudbury Schools, and unschooling. 

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Amidst all of this growth, though, is another less happy truth: teenage anxiety and depression are on the rise.

If we are learning more about the best ways to work with kids, why might this be the case? Shouldn't we be having better results with these young people if we are learning how to engage them better?

People have naturally been weighing in on the causes for this rise in anxiety and depression, but to rather unsatisfactory results. Many of these studies have issues with separating correlation vs. causation. Take this article, for instance, that suggests cell phone use could be the cause. While it's certainly possible that screen time could contribute to depression, people ignore that increased cell phone use could be a symptom of having a hard time, rather than a cause. If a teen isn't finding good opportunities to go out with friends, or join a special interest group, or find a significant other, they might very naturally turn to some manner of diversion. These days that looks like a cell phone where 40 years ago it might have looked like going out and getting drunk.

While the increased use of technology can't be ignored, I haven't found any compelling data that it is actually a definitive cause.

Instead, I'll turn to something even less scientific: my own experience. I've been working with teens closely in a summer camp environment since the late 1990s (although at that point I was a teen myself), and I've noticed the disquieting trend toward greater anxiety and depression as well. Unlike a lot of these studies that simply observe the behavior of teens, I've tried talking to them. I'd like to report my findings, and share what I've seen work to help teens gain confidence, have a brighter outlook on life, and form meaningful relationships.

So why are the teens I've talked to anxious?

Well, teens are complicated, and I won't pretend to know exactly why any given teen is having a hard time, but I can share my experience.

As a teen (and especially a higher functioning teen), it becomes clear very quickly that society prioritizes certain skills and abilities. They'll learn very quickly that:

1) Academic success is paramount.
2) Athletic success is highly valuable.
3) Musical or artistic success is noteworthy.

All other interests are typically considered secondary, or negotiable. 

Beyond that, most high functioning teens spend the ages of 13-17 maximizing their life for one goal: getting into the best college possible. This looks like achieving in the above areas, but also includes doing community service, getting internships, finding good college references, and staying out of trouble. 

So, naturally, teens focus on these things. And they focus on them hard. As someone who was a teen as recently as the 1990s, I can tell you that this is a dramatic shift. While some people I knew growing up were trying to build out the college resume at the age of 14, most teens I knew were just focusing on being teens. If they joined a club it was because they were interested in a club. If they did community service it was because they found something they cared about. They were spending their non-school time doing things that felt interesting or important to them, by and large.

Teens today? Not in my experience. Time not spent building out the college resume is portrayed as time wasted. Time not spent adding to this resume is seen as a great opportunity cost - how will I get into an Ivy League School if my peers are willing to take on these sacrifices and I am not?

Teens naturally focus on building the resumes and skills needed to impress colleges, but what no one tells them is that this is an unsatisfying game to play. The problem is that there is ALWAYS more one could be doing to improve one's college resume, leaving little time to do much else (or to do much else without feeling guilty about it). 

So these young people invest their teenage years into getting into the college of their dreams, and some of them actually get there. What happens next? Again, it's only my experience, but I've seen that many of them show up for college very prepared academically and extracurricularly, but not personally.

Helping teens become more in touch with themselves

You see, many teens will not have had the same amount of time as teens past to spend time trying to figure out what makes them tick. They have less time to figure out what they are looking for in their friends. They're so focused on what they want to be "when they grow up" that they have little time to focus on who they are now.

And listen, I'm not passing any judgment on being ambitious or pursuing greatness. If teens are motivated for academic and financial success, more power to them. I'm just proposing something of a life balance, and I believe I have a reasonable solution.

Sleep-away summer camp. 

Tremendous growth can occur in even a couple of weeks away from the other things teens have to focus on. When kids are at camp they get a clean slate. Nobody comes as the "smart kid," nobody comes as the "jock," nobody comes as the "popular kid." The empowerment that comes from having to look inward and decide who one wants to be is incredible.

At Longacre, we layer on additional opportunities for growth as well. Young people that come here choose their own activities, helping them to practice setting their own schedule and using freedom wisely. Young people that come here are expected to actively help our community succeed, helping them gain confidence and accountability by doing important work that makes the whole camp go.

And perhaps more importantly, they practice communicating. They practice listening to others, and making themselves understood. When I've talked to teens in the past who have been struggling, it's so common to hear they feel misunderstood, or that they feel a lack of connection to others. Coming to sleep-away camp can't help but help with that.

Our teens focus all year long on improving in various ways. They have teachers and academic tutors to help with their grades, coaches to help with their sports, and experts to help them learn whatever instrument they play.

But what about their character? What about sculpting an internal voice of confidence, kindness, and courage? That's our job. And we think building those things is at least as important as building out the college resume. One could argue that 3-6 weeks isn't enough time to focus exclusively on building character, but at least it's something. 

And we're pretty proud to offer it.

Hope to see you on the farm this summer.

JAMES DAVIS
Owner/Manager
james@longacre.com

The Summer Camp Search: How to find the right camp for your family

Winter weather means longing for summer, which ultimately means that the Summer Camp search time has begun. More and more families are registering as returning Farmers, and more new families are calling and emailing with questions about what Longacre is all about. I love this time of year, because I get to talk about camp every day when parents call me, and it’s not just Weeze and I talking about the Farm to each other. I don’t want to rush it by saying Summer is around the corner, but as it happens every year, it will be here before you know it!

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I have been getting a lot of questions recently about what to do during the Summer Camp Search process, especially when it is a family’s first time or they are switching to a new camp. I am going to use this blog to share my thoughts (and the thoughts of some sweet websites and other camp directors) on choosing the right camp for your family, both parent and child, so that everyone feels good about the decision, which will ultimately prepare you for the best summer ever. I will also share what we do at Longacre, to provide some context around these ideas. My biggest piece of advice is calling us at Longacre, so that we can have a conversation together about what a summer at the Farm will be like for your child!

So where do you begin? There are thousands of camps with thousands of identities and cultures and thousands of awesome things happening. It can be extremely overwhelming to get to know a camp if you don’t know where to start. That is why I recommend starting with what you do know: your child and your family. Why do you want summer camp to be a part of your family? What does your child want to experience during summer camp? What are important values to your family that you are looking for in a camp? Have you or anyone that you know been to summer camp? Are you looking for a day camp or an overnight camp, 1 week or all summer? It is important to start with the focus on your family, as it is a family decision after all. If you need any help deciding whether or not to send your child to camp, I recommend this article, or this book.

In order to make the best decision for everyone, involve your child right from the beginning. They may have some insight that you may not be thinking about, especially in regards to what they want to experience this summer. Have the conversation, especially with teens, and ask them what kind of community that they want to be a part of.  Let them know that you think they would benefit from a summer at camp, and make sure that they know that you want them to be involved in the process. What are you excited about? If you are looking for a summer camp, there must be a reason why you want your child to experience camp culture, so you should share it. And then ask your child what they are excited about too! At Longacre, we practice open and honest communication, so having these conversations are key to a successful Longacre experience as well as ensuring that you find the right camp. If your child is hesitant, ask them to practice for camp with sleepovers or school trips, as well as show them as many resources you can right from the beginning to generate conversations about what they may be nervous about. The more you communicate openly and honestly, the easier in the end the decision will be.

Once you have figured out what your family is hoping to gain from a summer camp experience, how do you find out where camps with these values exist? I suggest turning to people that you trust, in order to find the camp that you will trust. There are so many great camps out there, and the best way to get to know a camp is by hearing a camp story from someone who has experienced it. Literally ask everyone that you know. Talk to your friends and family, ask other students at your child’s school, or even work with Camp Consultants, who will recommend camps to you. When you tell these people what you are looking for, they may have one of those ‘light bulb’ moments, where they can connect you with a camp that you know. Please reach out to me if you would like to talk to any alumni or get a reference from Longacre! We have a lot of families that would be happy to share any information with you.

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If you are new to the area, or don’t have many connections to camps, many communities host Camp Fairs where families can meet over 20 camps in a few hours. It can help get you started in your search, and will give you a whole lot of resources that you didn’t even know about before. In any of these situations, it is important to make as many connections as possible, which will turn into opportunities to build trust and relationships with camp directors. You can also use the resource of the American Camping Association, to help in this camp search. The ACA is a community of camping professionals who share resources, knowledge, and an accreditation process to ensure that Summer Camps are of high quality health, safety, and program. They also have a ton of resources for families to help with the search process, including the Find a Camp database that helps narrow down your camp search based on certain elements you are looking for.

Once you’ve found a few camps that meet most of your dream camp criteria, really take your time to make your decision about which camp is right for your family. Don’t rush into the decision. Camp is a commitment, of time and money, and should really be a decision that you make together as a family. If you haven’t involved your teen yet, I strongly encourage you to provide them with choice in the decision. Camp should not be seen as a punishment for your teen, so really get them to be part of the process at this stage if they haven’t been already.

The most important part and the biggest piece of advice that I can give, is to get on the phone with the actual camp directors. We are the people running camp, and at the end of the day, camp is about people. As a family, you should do everything you can to get a feel for these people. Get on phone with ud, or even visit camp for a tour, or meet up in your city with us for coffee or milkshakes. At Longacre, we would love to have you visit us to see the farm, which would show you where farmers would sleep, eat and play. This can often make a nervous teen more at ease. We also are traveling often to various cities and would love to meet you, which is another way to decide if camp feels right. If you can meet someone from camp that will be there during the summer, teens will find a safe and familiar resource to connect them to camp. I hope that I can be that person for you and your family and I can’t encourage you enough to call me. Camp Directors are going to ask you all about your children so that we can best support them while at camp, and you should be asking lots of questions to camp directors as well. Here is a great list of questions to ask camp directors so that you can have some important conversations to help make your decisions.

Throughout this entire search process, follow your heart. Get to know the people who will be providing camp to your family. Figure out the culture that your child will experience and contribute to. Pay attention to the level of time and attention camp directors give to you. I hope that everyone who speaks to Weeze or I about the Summer Camp experience at Longacre knows how much we care about the farmers that join us every summer and care about the experience that is Summer at Longacre. Once you know which camp is right for you, don’t hesitate to call your camp director to tell them the exciting news! I personally get so excited by those phone calls, and would be happy to join in on the excitement with you!

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Happy Summer Camp Searching, and I hope I was able to provide a starting point for you all. I hope this has inspired conversations for your family, and has encouraged you to pick up the phone to talk to me about anything and everything summer camp search related. I truly believe that every child deserves a summer camp experience and that this article makes it easier for that dream become a reality!

With love,
Lindsay

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LINDSAY HUTCHINSON
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LINDSAY@LONGACRE.COM

 

January Camp Fairs in NYC & CT

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As the Winter cold has settled in, we begin traveling to spread summertime cheer! Lindsay will be hitting the road this month, traveling to two Camp Fairs, and we wanted to let you know where we will be! 

Sunday, January 21st, New York, New York: New York Family Camp Fair at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in the Upper West Side. 12pm-3pm.

Saturday, January 27th, Darien, Connecticut: Tips On Trips and Camps at Darien High School. 1pm-3:30pm. 

Come stop by in your favorite camp tshirt, get to know our program, and meet Lindsay! If you can't make it to the camp fairs, but live in the area, send Lindsay an email (lindsay@longacre.com) and she can come to you! Can't wait to meet you!

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LINDSAY HUTCHINSON
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LINDSAY@LONGACRE.COM

New Longacre Staff! Huxley the Puppy

Hi Longacre folks,

Jake and I wanted to introduce you to Huxley, the new addition to our family. Huxley is our four and a half month old Bernese Mountain Dog. In early November we brought home an 11 week old ball of fluff from our neighbor, Sadie. Sadie is the horse trainer we have visited during the summers, and who trained Firefly, Poppy and Spruce.

Jake and I have talked about getting a puppy for a while. However, it just never felt like the right time or the right dog for us. In late October, Sadie contacted me and said she had one puppy left, he had undergone a surgery on inverted eyelids, and had had a hernia surgery as well! No one wanted him. We went to meet him and it became apparent immediately that this puppy was the one for us. He is very sweet natured, has a calm energy, and loves being outside. November 12th we brought him home. 

I love having a puppy. Huxley comes everywhere with me: feeding horses, to the bank, food shopping, even into the local coffee shop. He is doing really well off leash on the farm and loves the snow. He is a quick learner and can already sit, lay down, and stay. He loves the cats and likes to follow Bombadil around the house. Oscar is not a huge fan, but puts up with him.

He is growing very quickly. He was 26 pounds at 11 weeks, and is now 50 pounds at 18 weeks. By summer he will be almost full grown. 

We cannot wait for you all to meet him! He is going to love all of the attention and snuggles farmers will give him.

Here are a couple of pictures.

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Weeze & Jake
CAMP MOM & DAD
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LOUISE@LONGACRE.COM

A Message From Lindsay: Our New Director

Dear Longacre Family,

I am so thankful for you. I haven’t even had a day at summer camp, yet I feel so connected to you. I am thankful for your warm welcome, the inspiration you spark in youth, and the positive change you are making on the world. I would like to take a moment to introduce myself, your new Camp Director, share what has brought me to this camp, and to say thank you for everything that you will do for me and that you already have done for the world.

As a camper my days were spent on a lake on Cape Cod, where I dreamed about arts and crafts, canoeing, and lip-sync all year long. I remember the first time I cooked mac-and-cheese over a fire, the first time I performed in a talent show, and the first time a good friend was heartbroken and our cabin was there to comfort her. I looked forward to meeting new people, spending every day in the lake, and reuniting with my old friends. My favorite camp memory was the day we “snuck out” during rest hour, and our counselors brought us to the boy’s Dining Hall to decorate it for one of our friends in our brother cabin’s birthday. Our counselors gave us experiences to make memories that last a lifetime, with friends that I still have to this day. Camp gave me a support system, confidence, and independence. I could advocate for what I wanted and needed, all while having fun with my friends.

During the summer before I went to college, I became a camp counselor.  It was the first job that I had which I liked and I excelled at. I learned responsibility, creativity, and teamwork in a way completely different than ever before. It wasn’t until I was responsible for someone else’s child that I realized how much my actions need to be intentional and compassionate. I got to sing "repeat after me" songs, take trips to the science museum, eat ice cream on the beach, and hangout with the coolest people I knew: my campers. I spent my next four years looking forward to the best summer job in the world, and knew that it would prepare me for working as a teacher, which is what I had planned on doing for my as long as I could remember.

 The first day I visited Longacre, and the day I fell in love with Longacre. 

The first day I visited Longacre, and the day I fell in love with Longacre. 

I went to Springfield College in Massachusetts and studied elementary education in the classroom while also experiencing transformational leadership through various clubs and activities I participated in. While I took classes on how to teach math to 6th graders, I facilitated orientation workshops and organized opportunities for reflection and self-growth in my peers. I realized that I didn’t want to teach the future generations how to fill in a multiple-choice standardized test, but instead I wanted to inspire them to learn about others to then discover their own selves.

I studied abroad with Semester at Sea, traveling to 13 countries in a semester, studying and experiencing the world for the first time. I was immersed in cultural exchange, navigating my way through cities and trails unknown to me, that were the homes of so many people that were so different from me. I learned that through these differences, we are all actually quite similar. Love and connection drives so many of us, and a good meal shared with those you love can solve almost anything. It was through my travels that I knew that I wanted to provide people with a place to explore their differences, feel loved and build connections, not only with each other, but through food.

These realizations turned into applying for my first real world job after college: camp counselor. I met some awesome people at a camp conference who made me realize that I could work at camp all year round, which sounded awesome to me, and I ended up working as an assistant camp director at Frost Valley YMCA's Farm Camp in the Catskills. I had never worked or lived on a farm before, but I knew I wanted to work at camp, so I took the job, which ended up being one of the most formative times for my career. I realized that I could combine my passion for sustainable food and the shared meal through farm programming, along with my passion for creating safe spaces in the world for youth to learn, lead, create, and dream. Camp allows for all of these things, where we are able to build a sustainable world through meaningful connections that we build with ourselves, others, and our earth. My life has been devoted to that ever since, and I have spent the past 4 summers as a full time camp Director at the oldest YMCA Camp in the country.

That brings me to now, and the decision I made to be a part of Longacre Leadership Camp. From the second I stepped onto the farm I could feel magic in the air. Weeze was the first person I met. Her passion, strength, humor, and care for everyone she interacts with made me feel welcome, inspired, and simply just so happy. Being able to see the farm through her eyes, talk about the successes and struggles of camp, and brainstorming about ways to make Longacre thrive with Weeze were some of the most energized conversations I had experienced in a long time. I am so grateful for her. I am thankful that I will be able to support Longacre alongside one of its strongest forces.

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Leading team building during staff training

Meeting Weeze was proof to me that Longacre’s community is strong, supportive, and true. I also received such a warm welcome from the Longacre Alumni when my position was announced. I was immediately invited to the Longacre Alumni group, and felt so empowered by a group of people that I had never met before. I cannot wait to meet as many of you as I can! As I speak with James and Jack about the phone calls they have shared with current camp families, I am more and more excited to begin speaking to all of you myself. I really cannot wait to meet you! I can already tell that the strength of this community comes from the trust and support that holds it up. It is through these connections that the world becomes a little bit better.

Longacre creates a community that is based on trust, communication, hard work, and leadership. Our mission and values make that happen; they guide staff to intentionally provide this supportive and empathetic community for the campers. The campers all have a responsibility to communicate directly, to make decisions that benefit the community, and to make a positive impact on the farm, all while developing passion for farming, leadership, and service. I am thrilled to be a part of this magic. Longacre’s mission is unique, and I am thankful to have a hand in providing youth experiences where they can grow into leaders and change agents. I am thankful that we get to do this on a beautiful farm.

Lindsay Hutchinson
Camp Director
Longacre Leadership Camp
lindsay@longacre.com

Introducing Our New Camp Director - Lindsay Hutchinson!

Date published: November 2nd, 2017 | By James

 

After receiving 73 resumes, interviewing more than a dozen candidates, and reaching out to countless references, we are extremely excited to introduce the newest member of the Longacre family, Lindsay Hutchinson!

When we first fell in love with the idea of tying our future to Longacre's for the long haul, we were dreaming about whom we could find to take on the incredible task of working alongside Louise to help Longacre launch into the next phase of its existence. Jack and I were chatting about how so much of our job was going to come down to finding the perfect person to fill this role. As people who have worked with and seen camps numbering into the hundreds, we started listing off people who we could reach out to help us find the perfect candidate. As we were writing names down, I could see a light bulb go off over Jack's head.

"You know who'd be perfect? And I mean I know she's doing amazingly well where she is now, but Lindsay Hutchinson would be the exact person who I'd picture in this role."

I didn't know Lindsay then, but as I listened on, I couldn't help but agree that we needed to talk to her. She was incredibly well regarded at one of the most successful camps in the country, came with the highest possible recommendation from one the most respected people in the camping industry, and had exceeded every reasonable expectation of her at every step along the way.

It felt like a long shot, but Jack reached out to her, and upon hearing about Longacre, she was thrilled to apply. She came out to the farm to meet everyone, and their excitement at the prospect of working with Lindsay was the same as ours. I guess I already spoiled this in the title of this post, but we are absolutely over the moon to introduce you to our new camp director, Lindsay Hutchinson!

 

So what makes Lindsay tick?

She's a relationship builder, first and foremost. Whether she is laughing with campers, coaching staff, or getting her hands dirty in the garden, Lindsay aims to provide opportunities for everyone to learn about one another, therefore allowing everyone to learn about themselves.

Lindsay comes to Longacre after 12 summers in YMCA camping. Originally from Massachusetts, she has spent the past four and a half years as a Director at Frost Valley YMCA in the Catskill Mountains of New York. She holds two Bachelor Degrees from Springfield College in Mathematics and Elementary and Special Education. She is a licensed teacher for grades 1­-6 and for students with disabilities grades K­-8.

After leaving college, Lindsay has worked at camp so that she could bring her passions for cultural exchange, leadership, and character education to life in away that youth aren't able to explore in a school setting.

Lindsay is a volunteer for the American Camping Association, specifically working with committees to ensure that the camping industry is a more diverse and inclusive youth development organization. She hopes to support diversity at Longacre, continuing its tradition of a strong community - where everyone, camper, staff, and animal alike, feels like they belong and that they matter.

When Lindsay is not working, she is traveling, cooking, and making music. She studied with Semester at Sea in college, traveling to 13 countries in 3 months, which has opened her eyes to the power that connection, communication, and a home-cooked meal have on someone's culture.

We are sure that you'll love Lindsay as much as we do. She'll start working full time at Longacre starting on December 1st, and would love to speak to as many of you as are interested at that time. In the meantime, feel free to send her a "hello" at lindsay@longacre.com.

Exciting times, y'all!

Catching up with Weeze

Date published: October 5th, 2017 | By Louise

Hi folks,

Well a lot has been going on here at Longacre these past few months. I hope you have had the time to read the posts from Matt and James last week. As you can see we have been dealing with some really big decisions and emotions.

I wanted to take a few moments to let you know that Jake and I are doing really well!!! I have felt so much support and good wishes from farm families, staff, and alumni. Last Friday alone I spoke with over 40 people. I feel so cared for and grateful for these connections and relationships.

When Matt and I sat down at the end of April and really acknowledged to ourselves that continuing Longacre was unsustainable, I felt relief and sadness in ways I cannot describe. Working at Longacre for eleven years, and owning the camp with my best friend for seven years, has been a blessing that I will forever feel grateful for. The Smiths are my family, plain and simple.

So we gave this summer our all, holding it together so our beloved farmers would have another wonderful summer at Longacre, knowing that this would be our last. It was tough. I look back on the summer and can’t really believe we held it together.

Then James, Jack, and Doug approached us. When I met these three guys, whom I had heard of before, I instantly liked them. However, I was hesitant to allow myself to wonder if Longacre could really continue. We had been on such an emotional roller coaster up to that point that I felt emotionally fried. However, when I saw how the guys interacted with our kids, I was intrigued. When they asked me a million questions about our program and then said to me, ‘Louise, we want you to do all the things you love,’ I knew I had to be a part of this.

When I compare how I felt through the summer and after meeting the guys, to how I feel now, it is like night and day. I feel so energized and excited for Longacre’s future and I feel so deeply grateful that James, Jack, and Doug are willing to work voraciously to give our program a chance. I truly feel like, together, we have a great shot at making this program work. Their passion for summer camp and the individual skills they each bring to the table are super impressive.

James and I must email each other 15 times a day, and talk pretty much every day. It is so fun getting to know them. I am eagerly looking forward to meeting Oliver, Ezra, and August some day. Doug is a Juniata alum, which is where Jake and I met. I think if we had met at college we would have been besties. James send emails to me as Weeze, which I love, and when Jack and I chat he calls me Weeze too. It makes me laugh.

Jake and I love living in Perry County and are grateful to retain ownership of the farm with Matt and Alecia. That we will both still be able to work at Longacre and be with ‘our kids’ is a blessing. We are excited to welcome a new Camp Director, when they get hired, to our community. Jake and I purchased the property next door so we can continue to care for our herd of horses. Shasta is doing okay; the dry weather is aggravating his throat. Jazz broke a bone in her hip; she is fine, but healing slowly. Trey, Moo, Firefly, Poppy, and Spruce are great and starting to get their fluffy winter coats. Rosie is fat. We will still use the riding ring and our horses during the summer for camp.

Saying goodbye to Matt, Alecia, and Sofia was really hard. Sofia has been a huge part of my life since she arrived on this planet. Alecia is the most amazing mom I have ever met. Being a part of their journey as parents for the first eight months of Sofia’s life was an honor. I am so looking forward to spending Christmas with them in Brewster. I am also very proud of their decision to move to Madison. Jake and I miss them a lot.

Change is difficult and yet inevitable. And at times necessary. I feel proud that Matt and I were able to keep Longacre going as long as we did, and proud of the way we have navigated these huge changes together. And I feel deep gratitude and hope for what's next.

Please call me or email me (louise@longacre.com) if you would like to chat. Roll on Summer 2018.

With gratitude,

Weeze

Who We are, Why We Bought Longacre, and What Happens Next

Date published: September 28th, 2017 | By James

If you’re reading this, you’re likely in somewhat of a state of bewilderment. 3 families have (in some capacity) owned Longacre for its entire 43 year existence, and now 3 new families will own it. I’d love to spell out who we are, why we bought Longacre, and what our intentions are for Longacre going forward.

Let’s start with who we are, and then I’ll get in to why we appeared in a puff of smoke and decided to purchase Longacre from Matt and Louise.

Who we are

Since I’m writing this, I suppose I’ll introduce myself first. My name is James Davis. My wife Taylor and I have three boys ages 1, 5, and 7. I believe in summer camp because, quite simply, it changed my life.

When I first went to camp as a teenager, I met other young people who loved me for who I was. Heck, they helped me discover who I was. An incredible counselor of mine took this a step further, and convinced me that I could potentially create the same magic that had so changed my life. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a shot. I wound up working at that camp for 8 summers (meeting Taylor along the way), ultimately serving as the Summer Program Director before I convinced myself that I needed to “grow up.”

Well, I wasn’t the greatest at growing up at first. I played poker professionally for 7 years, and my camp work was relegated to serving on the board of directors at the camp where I grew up. My wife taught at a private elementary school in Princeton, NJ during this time. We had our first son in 2010, and decided to finally grow up for good. We took a job running a small summer camp in Upstate New York, and ultimately were able to grow that camp from about 190 campers per summer to 467 campers in our final summer. While we loved that chapter in our lives, rural upstate NY was not going to be our “forever home,” and we decided to dream on other possibilities.

Right before our last summer there, I met Jack Schott (one of our other business partners in purchasing Longacre). He and his partner Laura had just gotten done visiting more than 200 summer camps across the country. With a combined age under 50, they had more knowledge about what was working at camps across the country than anyone in the world. They were (and still are) sought after speakers at all of the major camping conferences in the United States, and had started a well trafficked website to share their experiences (Camping Coast to Coast). We all hit it off, and decided to work together in the summer of 2014.

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We had a terrific time, but realized would never be able to fully realize our vision in working at camp while working for others, so we decided to start a new camp. We launched Camp Stomping Ground in the summer of 2015, and by 2017 we had just under 400 campers attend. With the help of 3 other camp professionals, we also launched Go Camp Pro, a continuing education platform for camp professionals of all ages and experiences. To supplement our somewhat meager early camp income, Jack, Laura, and I continued to speak at conferences around the country, worked as camp consultants for a number of camps, and even traveled to several camps to perform staff trainings. Jack and Laura launched Bat Fish Creations to help camps with their digital presence and design, and Jack created The Summer Camp Society to help young camping professionals become the best version of themselves that they could be. He and Laura are the current directors of Stomping Ground.

Our third partner, Doug Norrie, is a lifelong camp person (who also happens to be my best friend). He is married to his wife Sabrina (who happens to be my wife’s best friend), has a 6 year old daughter, and is expecting another child this winter. We met at Camp Johnsonburg in NJ in 1998, and worked together until he ultimately worked there year round as the Assistant Program Director.

After working at Johnsonburg, he spent 13 years working as an elementary school teacher and realtor in New Jersey (and serving as a board member for Johnsonburg), before he created an advanced sports-centered statistical modeling system that we’d ultimately sell access to as a part of a current business venture of ours, DFSR. DFSR is the business that earned the money we needed to feel comfortable venturing into the space of purchasing another camp, and we have Doug’s ingenious, analytical, and data-driven mind to thank for that.

Doug will continue operations as the lifeblood of DFSR while Jack and I focus more of our attention to serve as the effective board (and interim directors until we hire someone) of Longacre. He will also lend his expertise in helping us to determine which business decisions have been working and which we need to work on, which campers we could better serve (based on our retention figures), and powering out all of the day to day decisions that are just better when someone with his grasp of numbers has an eye on them.

So why did we buy this camp?!

Well, we discovered Longacre was for sale somewhat by accident. Matt had made an anonymous post on a seldom trafficked ACA forum where people can list camps for sale. Jack had independently sent Matt a message without my even knowing about it because he was interested in touring the facility as a potential future home for Stomping Ground. Meanwhile, I had been approached by a large institutional investor in NYC about managing a portion of his fund that was going to invest in summer camps, and had messaged a number of camps about potential acquisition.

All of that changed when we realized the camp in question was Longacre. I immediately texted Jack, “Man – that camp for sale is Longacre!”

You see, Jack and I had known about Longacre for years. As I mentioned, Jack had toured the country visiting camps of all kinds, and Longacre was truly one of a kind. From crew, to group, to its technology policy, to the seamless integration of its farm, Longacre is somewhat “famous” in camp circles. I’m sure that to many of you Longacre is just “camp,” the place you or your teen has called home during the summers. You may appreciate it, or have a sense for how unique it is, but unlike many people who think that about their very normal camp, it’s actually true.

I excitedly approached the investor – “THIS is a camp worth investing in!” He gave me the go-ahead to investigate, so Doug, Jack, and I came out to observe a day of mini-camp, meet the campers and staff, and see if Longacre lived up to the reputation it had. It mostly certainly did.

I called the investor again, and he was interested, but at a price point that wasn't going to get the deal done. All of a sudden, this felt a whole lot more real than an abstract “let’s find some camps, fix them up, and make some money!” plan.

Jack, Doug, and I got on a conference call to discuss it. We didn’t have the money to purchase the business and the property, but we really believed in the business.

What’s more, we really believe in Longacre. You see, as people with our finger on the pulse of the camping industry, we’ve observed an unsettling trend. Way more camps close every year than open. For every Stomping Ground that gets launched, 10 small camps close after struggling to make ends meet. As time passes, there are fewer and fewer organizations that are dedicated to helping kids get out of doors and learn to love themselves a little harder.

And that’s just regular old camps. Longacre closing would be a travesty. While it’s sad when any camp closes, Longacre closing would be like losing the only living member of an endangered species. Not only did Longacre have a unique place in the camping industry, it also had really special people. The mini-campers we met were out of this world. There were young people glowingly explaining to us how they loved to chip in on cleaning the animals’ pens, how they loved helping do dishes, and how they loved learning to communicate with one another.

No, we decided, we couldn’t just walk away from this. We had to come up with something else.

We called Matt and Louise and explained our situation.

We were interested in moving forward without the investor, contingent upon the following terms:

 

1) We needed Louise. We believed (and still believe!) that Louise is a one of a kind force in camping (again, as people who are qualified to make that claim). Her unique mix of warmth, strength, community connections, and knowledge of operations would be impossible to replace in a time of transition. If she was out, we were out.

2) We’d buy the business, and lease the property for as long as Longacre was in existence. This would leave us the working capital to make some much needed improvements (more on those in a minute), and have enough cash on hand to invest in good opportunities for the camp as they arose, rather than having to wait until Spring when more campers signed up.

3) The would-be investor was out, but we were in. We’d put our money and time on the line to make this work. We believe in Longacre’s rich tradition and one of a kind program, and we also believe in our ability to fine tune the business itself.

Well, our little group and the then-owners of Longacre had a meeting of the minds. Louise (who will be sharing her feelings soon) was in to stay, Matt and his family were moving on to Wisconsin, but all of us would do whatever we could to give Longacre the maximum possible chance to exist in perpetuity. We’ve seen nothing but wonderful things from both Matt and Louise as they’ve helped us try and figure this out.

So what will Longacre be like going forward?

 

You read the part about how much we loved Longacre, right? Longacre will be like Longacre going forward.

As for specifics, our plan is to spend the next several months speaking to as many families and campers as humanly possible to continue to learn what makes Longacre tick. I’ve already had the opportunity to speak to a number of families, and I’m blown away by this community already. Each person I’ve talked to has been thoughtful, brilliant, and welcoming, and I can’t wait to get to know more of you.

As we get to know the Longacre family, we will also be hiring a full time director to work alongside Louise. We have put out feelers among our personal contacts and reach out to the broader camp community and have already fielded about 40 resumes. We have some FANTASTIC candidates that we’re interviewing, and Jack mentioned to me today how sad it is that we can only hire one of them. We can’t wait to introduce whomever we hire to you, though this process might take up to a month. We’ll certainly keep you in the loop there.

Once a director is hired, we will come together as a team (the director, Louise, Jack, Doug, and I) and go through Longacre’s programmatic offerings with a fine toothed comb to make sure our offerings are meeting the needs and desires of our community.

The core of Longacre will go on as you have recognized it. The farmers will choose their own activities, each individual at camp will be accountable to the community to make sure camp can run (via Crew), we will facilitate intentional discussions between community members so they can learn to advocate for themselves and give and receive feedback of all stripes, and we will maintain the rustic charm and farm-centered community that people have enjoyed for decades.

We do hope to add some of the things we’ve learned along the way that can make camp even more fun and engaging. While we are dedicated to offering as deep a growth opportunity as Longacre has been in the past, we are very confident that we can add things that will help teens and mini-campers enjoy their time at Longacre even more.

We have also developed a prioritized list of facilities improvements that we will begin breaking ground on right away. Louise has been in discussions with local contractors about replacing “Clive,” the unfortunately smelly Clivus Multrum toilets near the cabins, with fully functioning flush toilets. These will be in place by next summer. We also have plans to improve upon the dining facility, and perhaps even make the on-site pool swimmable by next summer. These are currently “reach” plans, but could happen if we meet our more aggressive enrollment goals (or we find some other way to finance them).

We hope that the facilities improvements and the other activities we can add to Longacre just improve the context where the magic really happens at Longacre – the interactions between the people there. We will not do anything to jeopardize this essence of Longacre, and take the preservation of the spirit as Longacre as seriously as we can given that we haven’t actually been on site for a whole summer.

Where do we go from here?

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you really care about this place. If that’s the case, I figure you might be interested in talking with one of our team. Louise has been chatting with camp families around the clock, and both Jack and I are available to talk to anyone that is interested. We hope to talk with farmers, parents, supporters, alumni, staff, really anyone who cares about Longacre.

We are also very open to feedback and support. I’ve seen incredible things come from camp communities who rally around transition.

If you’re interested in chatting, helping out, or asking questions, don’t hesitate to email me at james@longacre.com.

Until then!

James

Louise and Matt Have Sold Longacre Leadership Camp

Date published: September 27th, 2017 | By Matthew

 

Dear Longacre Friends,

I have important news.

Louise and I have sold Longacre Leadership Camp to three gentlemen named James, Jack and Doug.

I know this comes as a shock.

The past twelve months have been eventful. Let’s back up a bit.

2016 (two summers ago) was a really bad year for us financially — and not the first such year. After that summer, Louise and I were faced with a difficult decision: shut the doors, or throw a hail mary.

We decided to throw a hail mary.

At first, our gambit for 2017 seemed to be working. Enrollment was strong through last April. We were cautiously optimistic.

Then enrollment tanked.

Last May, we had to acknowledge a harsh reality: 2017 would be our final summer.

We didn’t tell anyone. We were determined not to let our decision influence the summer.

But keeping the secret was torturous.

Then, in August, something surprising happened. Three guys named James, Jack and Doug came out of the woodwork. They responded to an anonymous listing we had posted online, in a forum for buying and selling camps.

When James, Jack and Doug learned the listing was for Longacre, they were surprised and excited. They knew who we were.

They immediately scheduled a visit, and came during MiniCamp. They met the young farmers, helped out on crew and participated in Group. They fell in love.

Since then, the five of us have been working out the details of a sale.

Here’s the deal, basically:

  1. James, Jack and Doug have bought Longacre Leadership Camp, i.e., the business.
  2. Louise and Matt will retain ownership of the farm, i.e., the property.
  3. James, Jack and Doug have signed a 20-year lease to keep the camp on the farm.
  4. I am out.
  5. Louise is in.

James, Jack and Doug did not push me out. Last May, when I realized 2017 would be our last summer, my wife applied for a job in Wisconsin. In July, she got the job. After MiniCamp, we moved to Madison. She has started her new job. Our Pennsylvania home is for sale. We have left Perry County.

Of course, I may help out if called upon. But for all intents and purposes I am out.

Louise is in. She will continue in a similar capacity.

Also, Roger and Susan are leaving the farm, for Massachusetts. They will be gone by November.

I know this is sudden. I wish there were a more sensitive way to deliver the news.

There are further explanations forthcoming.

For now, James, Jack and Doug need your help. They are going to invest a lot of money to return Longacre to prosperity. And they will be looking to you, the greater Longacre community, for guidance.

From experience, I can tell you these gentlemen ask a lot of questions. Please be prepared to give your honest opinion about how to improve the Longacre experience.

If you’re interested in next summer, here are the dates, rates and discounts. Save 15% before October 15th.

As I said, there are further explanations forthcoming.

If you have questions, please direct them to Louise Warner or James Davis at louise@longacre.comjames@longacre.com or 717-567-3349.

Most Sincerely,

Matt

Matthew T. Smith
Former Owner / Director
Longacre Leadership Camp

Pre-Camp Email #21 — We've Begun Posting to Instagram!

Date published: June 20th, 2017 | By Matthew

Hello 2017 Parents,

We’ve begun posting to Instagram!

If you have an account, we’re at @longacreleaders.

If you don’t have an account, no problem, you can still see photos at https://www.instagram.com/longacreleaders/.

If you want to set up an Instagram account, it’s really easy.

If you’re anti-, bear in mind you can always make your account private, i.e., not visible to friends.

This summer, the best way to see what’s happening at camp will be through Instagram. We’ll do our best to post every day.

Any questions? You can always reach me at 717-567-3349 or matt@longacre.com.

Warmly,

Matt

Matthew T. Smith
Owner / Director
Longacre Leadership Camp

Here are all the links to the Pre-Camp Email Series and CampMinder.

Pre-Camp Email #20 — Please Make Sure Your Camper Is Hydrated

Date published: June 13th, 2017 | By Matthew

 

Dear 2017 Parents,

This is email #20 in our pre-camp series.

Safety is our primary concern. Today I want to talk about hydration.

Summers are hot in Pennsylvania. The temperature can get into the 90s.

Worse than the heat is the humidity.

Campers coming from the Southwest or the West Coast are sometimes caught off guard by how oppressive the humidity is. They say it feels sticky.

One thing about the humidity is it makes us sweat. A lot.

This means we’re losing fluids, more than normal. (Remember, no air conditioning.)

Dehydration is a risk, especially for campers who are unfamiliar with staying hydrated.

Drinking water has become an important part of our culture here. Every camper brings two water bottles to camp. Every camper brings water on every activity. We have a water bottle rack next to the breezeway where campers hang their water bottles, to save them trips back to their cabins.

And we have specific recommendations for how much water to drink every day.

The amount of water we recommend is based on two things: (1) a camper’s weight, and (2) what kind of day it is.

We recommend drinking 0.5-1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight per day. So, for example, if your camper weighs 128 pounds, we recommend that he drink 64-128 ounces per day, which means 2-4 quarts (most water bottles are one quart). That’s every day.

Our recommendations are displayed in a chart below. The first column is weight. The second column is minimum quarts — that’s for a regular, do-nothing day. The third column is maximum quarts — that’s for an active, hot or sweaty day.

80 1.3 2.5
90 1.4 2.8
100 1.6 3.1
110 1.7 3.4
120 1.9 3.8
130 2.0 4.1
140 2.2 4.4
150 2.3 4.7
160 2.5 5.0
170 2.7 5.3
180 2.8 5.6
190 3.0 5.9
200 3.1 6.3
210 3.3 6.6
220 3.4 6.9
230 3.6 7.2
240 3.8 7.5
250 3.9 7.8
260 4.1 8.1
270 4.2 8.4
280 4.4 8.8

Some campers think our recommendations are excessive. They say they’ve never drank so much water in their life. Some try to avoid drinking their water. They tip up their bottles up and pretend to drink, but they’re just taking mini-sips.

The biggest complaint we get is “it makes me pee”. The second biggest complaint is “water tastes gross” (we have delicious well water).

Our Big Kids (a.k.a. counselors) have eagle eyes. They look out for signs of dehydration. Early signs are headache and flushed face. More concerning signs are fatigue, dizziness and dry mouth.

This is where you come in. It can take up to one week for a camper to become fully hydrated. If your child is not normally hydrated, we ask that you get them hydrated before they arrive. This means more water and less juice, soda and tea.

The easiest way for a camper to tell if he’s hydrated is for him to look at his urine. His urine should be clear and copious.

Any questions about this? Concerns? You can always reach me at 717-567-3349 or matt@longacre.com. Thanks for your help!

Warmly,

Matt

Matthew T. Smith
Owner / Director
Longacre Leadership Camp

Here are all the links to the Pre-Camp Email Series and CampMinder.

Pre-Camp Email #19 — Please Write Your Child Early and Often

Date published: June 12th, 2017 | By Matthew

 

Hello 2017 Parents!

This is email #19 in our pre-camp series.

Letters from home are the best.

When the mail arrives, campers’ faces are filled with anticipation.

After lunch, during a typical rest hour, when a counselor pulls into the parking lot after a mail run, she is swarmed by hopeful campers.

For some reason, these technology-toting teens still totally love the snail mail, just like generations of campers before them. Some things never change, I guess, and the joy of receiving a letter at camp is one of them.

We encourage our campers to write home. You are welcome to send them with stationary, but we provide paper, pens, envelopes and postage (free of charge). And we give our kids activity periods to write, if they so choose.

Receiving mail from home brings comfort, especially during the blackout period. Receiving mail from camp may have a similar effect on you. For that reason, we encourage you to get into a routine this summer. Please write your child early and often.

Here's the address:

[Your Camper] 
Longacre Leadership Camp
6565 Creek Rd. 
Newport, PA 17074

Any questions? You can always reach me at 717-567-3349 or matt@longacre.com.

All the best,

Matt

Matthew T. Smith
Owner / Director
Longacre Leadership Camp

Here are all the links to the Pre-Camp Email Series and CampMinder.