Teachers at Davis Creek Farm
Elizabeth Van Deventer
Elizabeth Van Deventer leads the morning farm chores and farm activities for all four camps. She brings a wealth of experience in farming to all her teaching, mentoring and children's camps.
Elizabeth grew up on a dairy farm and has spent the rest of her life engaged in different aspects of food and farming. She worked stints in a vegetarian restaurant in Virginia and a vegan restaurant in Seattle. She was an agriculture extension agent with the U.S. Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa where she worked and lived among Senufou millet farmers and Fulani cow and goat herders. In Burgundy, France, she lived and worked with goat, sheep, and cattle farmers researching their practices as part of a multi-disciplinary anthropological project tracing sustainability over two thousand years. She also interned on a large-scale market vegetable farm in North Carolina. Along with her husband, Tim, and their three teen boys, she has farmed at Davis Creek Farm for the last 18 years.
In addition to all this practical experience, and in the spirit of the founder of Biodynamic agriculturE, Rudolf Steiner, Elizabeth seeks to connect spiritual and scientific understandings with farming practice. All these wide-ranging and far-flung experiences translate into a rich depth of understanding, which she brings to all her teachings to all ages.
Elizabeth's enthusiam about working with the land and animals in a way that honors their sanctity is nothing short of contagious. From singing to animals to cow hugging and horse scratching, children will learn about not only the practical aspects of farming and nature, but the joy of it, too. Her own childhood on a farm motivates her to want to give all children the opportunity to experience the deep connection to nature that comes from being on a farm. She loves nothing more than getting kids excited about the wonders of the natural world. Watch what you ask her. She may never shut up!
David Welker leads the afternoon outdoor mentorship/wilderness survival part of the camp for boys and girls ages nine and up. David has spent a lifetime connecting kids and adults to the natural world.
He is the founder of Blue Heron Outdoor School in Amherst, Virginia, where he seeks to help his fellow humans form a deep and lasting connection to the earth. He has an outdoor mentoring program called "Earthwise," which teaches individuals and small groups with a fusion of old time personal mentoring and modern technology.
Before opening his own Outdoor School, David pioneered the Primitive Skills Camp at Richmond's Passages Adventure Camps for ages 5 and up. Kevin Tobin, owner of Passages describes David as someone who, " . . .walks the walk as a super-talented wilderness survival specialist but can also talk the talk with our youngest and most anxious campers. David sees each person as an opportunity, to share, to listen, to teach and to learn. . . .Long before Survivor and Bear Grylls, David saw the profound value in teaching young people how to sustain themselves in the wilderness with little more than their wits, a knife and a wool blanket. The self-reliance these Campers earn from working with David permeates every other corner of their lives."
For David, mentoring kids in the ways of the outdoors is more than just "wilderness survival," it's also about teaching them how to cope with failure, adversity, and success with self-imposed limitations, with others and with their world view. And most importanly, it's about getting them connected to nature. What more can we say about David?
Suzanne Ryan leads farm and nature craft activities for campers twelve and under, and works with Elizabeth assisting children with farm chores, gardening, and tree planting. She brings to the camp decades of experience as a school teacher and draws on her knowledge in the fiber arts, biodynamic farming, and agroforestry.
For the last ten years, Suzanne was a beloved teacher at the Charlottesville Waldorf School. Prior to that, she taught at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, the Goderich Waldorf School in Freetown, Sierra Leone, as an English teacher at Shanxi Agricultural University in China, and she continues to teach Chinese to students in the Charlottesville area. Suzanne has also led groups of third graders to week-long camps at Hawthorne Valley Farm, a biodynamic dairy farm in New York, where she'd also formerly apprenticed. Let's just say that her patience and creativity with children are inexhaustible.
She holds a bachlor's degree in biology, a master's in education, and is currently a student in forest management. She is excited to share her knowledge and enthusiam for agroforestry with campers. Don't worry, she won't ask campers to climb trees like the one she's surveying as a forester here in this photo!
Suzanne also draws on the many years she nurtured her skills in the fiber arts as an apprentice on a sheep and goat farm, and by spinning, knitting, crocheting, and most recently teaching herself how to use a sewing machine. We are thrilled to have Suzanne teaching at our summer camp.