Proposed farm camp for children up for review by Belmont Planning Board

BELMONT — A local couple hopes to add an education angle to their home-based farm by hosting small private agricultural camps for children at their Bean Hill Road home.

Frederick and Tina Fleming have asked the Planning Board to give them permission to use their farming buildings for the day camps.

"We just want to share our knowledge," said Tina Fleming who is a reading teacher at Laconia Middle School. She said the planning process requires a change of use because of the commercial component of running the camp.

The Flemings have been farming for years and operate a small family farm. Tina said they have some chickens, pigs, goats, pigs, and lambs with some gardens as well.

She said the goal of the educational program is to bring very small groups of children to the farm and have them experience farming in a personal way.

"So many children don't even know where their food comes from," she said.

As teacher, she said she hopes to integrate agriculture and reading into the camp curriculum. She said she would do special programs and have various experts in different types of agriculture — like bee keeping — come to the farm and give short talks.

"I just want to share that knowledge," she said.

She said she hopes the camp will be very hands on — something that will give children the real experience of farming and learning about the food chain.

One of her goals is to teach safety around animals. She said she has two horses and wants to teach youths about leading them and feeding them.

The farm has three Nigerian goats that will "freshen" and give birth sometime in late June or July. "I want children to learn to bottle-feed a baby goat," she said.

The Flemings have some chickens — broilers and layers — and she said part of the camp could be learning how to gather eggs in the morning.

She said the farm has some sheep and lambs — for both wool and meat — and said one of the classes would be sheering and making wool.

"It's just going to be a seasonal thing," she said, adding that she will continue to teach reading during the school year. "I really want to introduce children to agriculture."

"The key," she said, "is keeping it small."

The Planning Board will review her proposal on March 24 at their regular meeting. The Flemings' plan has already be reviewed by a planning review committee designed to help people through the town's planning process.