Check Out the Tollgate Camp Video!

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MSU Tollgate Earth Explorers Camp: Wednesday-Friday


Kicked off the day with Flag Ceremony lead by the Yellow Peppers! After the flag ceremony it was time to head over to do our animal chores for the day. Yellow Peppers got to milk Sage the goat!

After chores we headed over to the pond for some fishing! Each pepper group did a great job using yesterdays casting training to send out some really good casts. Each group was able to catch quite a few fish, including a large mouth bass from each group! 

After fishing it was time to make DIY cling wrap! We melted down bees wax and dipped fabric to give it a thin wax coating. You can use this cling wrap to seal left over containers or or wrap up snacks and other food! When it starts to get cracky you can re melt it in the oven on parchment paper or using a iron with parchment paper. 

After lunch we got messy and made pollinator seed bombs to throw into the garden later this week. We mixed clay, compost, water and made a soil paste and placed pea and oat seeds in the center. 

After making the seed bombs we learned about pollination and played games in the field 

We capped off Wednesday with Makers Space where we made our carnival games for the whole camp to see.


Thursday is here! Today we started with our animal chores. Today the Orange peppers got to milk Sage the goat today! 

After animals we visited the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) fields with Farmer Darby. We learned about compost, good/bad bugs, and got to harvest squash. While harvesting we learned about the life cycle of the squash plant.  

After harvesting cucumbers we went back for snacks and a cucumber taste test! Quite a few hesitant campers but many converted to cucumber lovers after! 

Orange and Yellow peppers went out for a additional activity of fishing while Green peppers went back out to the pond for some pond exploration. 

After snacks we enjoyed lunch and then got back to work on our STEAM Project: Makers Space and threw our seed bombs! 

We also got to explore vermicomposting (composting with worms) and learned that worms have 5 pairs of hearts and do a great job munching up our food scraps into nutritious soil for our garden. 

Final activity was a visit to the Forest for Track Trapping. We set up a baited trap  (a large piece of paper and an ink pad), found a good space in the forest, and let it sit over night to see if we could trick animals into walking onto our ink pad trap so we can see their markings. 


Happy Friday! Kicked off the misty morning with the Flag Ceremony hosted by the green peppers! After the flag ceremony we made it over to the animals for our final visit for the week! Lots of hi’s and byes to the chickens and goats! 

After chores we visited the forest to check our track trap and to play some games! The Orange peppers did an AMAZING job on their shelters. 

After the forest we had snacks, learned about decomposing trash, and made DIY tote bags! 

Surprise visit from Stormy the Pony from Horse Camp for the green peppers! Thanks Louise! 

Lots of games were played today!

After games and activities. We had a moment to finish up our STEAM Projects and then it was time to present them. We had ball toss games, card games, solar system and tractor observations, claw games, egg drops, arrow throwing, and sooo much more! All the campers were so creative and thoughtful during this weeks STEAM and loved showing off their creations. 

Then popsicles, survey, and time to go! Such a great week thanks to all of you! Hope to see you all soon 🙂 

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Summer Camp 2021: Earth Explorers Camp Monday-Tuesday


Earth Explorers Camp Week and we are excited for a week of GREAT Weather and fun!

Today we started the day with Flag ceremony hosted by the Orange peppers. They did a great job leading the way for the other pepper groups for Wednesday and Friday. After the Flag ceremony we did the C.A.R.E.S. Behavior expectations skits led by the Stewards and SIT’s.

After skits it was time for a wagon ride. We got a lovely tour around the farm. Some groups saw deer, fox, and turkeys!

After skits it was animal chore time. All the camp groups were able to meet a different animal. We will get to visit all the animals by the end of the week.

After chores we learned about reducing plastic and natural products as we made DIY bug spray. You can make your own at home by checking out the recipe here. 

Then it was time to go to the garden with Ms. Katie. We learned about plant needs and had a friendly competition on who could weed the fastest. The Plants WON 🙂 

After lunch we started our week long STEAM project: Making a Carnival Game! Looks of designing and building this week as we turn “trash” into something awesome! 

Then after snack and tie dye it was time to go home! What a great first day of camp! Looking forward to tomorrow 🙂 


Another day of fun! Tuesday was a full day of learning and fun! 

We started the day with Animal Chores! Green peppers got to milk a goat today! It was a huge success! 

After chores back to the garden with the Education Garden Volunteers. They taught us about pests and let us explore all the bugs in the garden. We found butterflies, ants, beetles, bees, and more! Some groups even got to feed the chickens some grub 🙂 

After the garden we headed over to pond to explore the life underwater and around waters edge. We learned about erosion and found fish, crayfish, and more! 

Then Dream Tree! Do trees dream? We found out they do communicate. Each camp group was able to write their tree dream and tag the tree for all to see. <3 

After lunch we got to practice casting for fishing tomorrow. The campers learned the Tollgate way of fishing and look ready to do some real fishing tomorrow! How many do you think we will catch?

After casting practice we learned about pollution, its effect, and how we can do our part to limit it through the story called “A Fishy Story”. The campers all got to be a part of the story!

The last activity of the day was working on our STEAM project. All of the games are really coming to life!

And of course games were played 🙂 

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow for our third day of Earth Explorers camp! 

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MSU Tollgate Farm 4-H Club has Record Year at Oakland County Fair

It is that time of year when across Michigan thousands of 4-H youth are taking their livestock projects to county fairs. This year feels particularly special after the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to fairs in 2020. The MSU Tollgate Farm 4-H Club has had a challenging 16 months like so many other youth programs. COVID-19 restrictions meant a stop to in-person club activities until June 2021 and no access to MSU Tollgate Farm. Unlike many youth living on farms in rural areas, the MSU Tollgate Club’s 25 members from metro-Detroit communities, depend on access to MSU Tollgate Farm to work with their animals. However, due to strong youth and adult leadership, the Club members came prepared to the fair and exceeded expectations with a record year.

Michigan 4-H, administered by MSU Extension, is the largest youth serving organization in Michigan with over 200,000 members. The vast majority of these youth participate in project specific “Clubs” that are led by adult volunteers. Entrepreneurship, youth driven activities, and project-based learning are the cornerstones of 4-H. The MSU Tollgate Farm 4-H Club is unique for the metro-Detroit area because it supports youth in raising goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, and cattle. Mary Hutka, the MSU Tollgate Farm 4-H Club volunteer leader, said, “during the fall and winter months, the kids worked hard to complete the education requirements related to their livestock projects, taking advantage of Zoom to do these activities virtually.” The virtual meetings allowed the Club members to focus on animal care and showmanship so they were prepared for the return of in-person activities. 

The hard work paid off in 2021 with a record year at the Oakland County Fair. At the fair, the club members participate in two types of contests that test their knowledge and ability to present their chosen species of livestock. The first is “showmanship”. This is a test of a contestant’s ability to present the animal in the best manner so that its important features, such as the udders for a dairy goat, and overall healthy appearance are visible to the judge. The youth are also asked questions testing their knowledge of raising livestock. Fairs bring in livestock judges, often industry experts, that assess the exhibitors abilities and knowledge. The second is a “breed class”. In these classes the judge focuses on judging the overall quality of the animal based on whether it fits the breed standards designed to maximize the production of quality meat, eggs or dairy. The MSU Tollgate Farm Club members were able to demonstrate their skills and knowledge, receiving many ribbons and trophies in both showmanship and breed classes. The Club continued its excellence in showing dairy goats and for the first time club members showed ducks. Other livestock presented by the club included cattle and sheep.

While livestock shows are often a main attraction for fairs, there are many other ways for 4-H youth to showcase the knowledge and skills that they learn with their Club. The Oakland County Fair has whole Club competitions where the kids work together on a project. The MSU Tollgate members participated in the Club Banner and Club Decorated Straw Bale projects. Both required a presentation before a judge in addition to the entry. The Club was successful, receiving 1st place for both the Banner and Straw Bale. Beyond these projects, members submitted projects and received ribbons/trophies for art, jewelry, table setting, creative writing and more. These projects will be available for viewing at the MSU Tollgate Farm Re-Opening Celebration on July 31st. You can also meet some of the prize winning animals that the Club raised.

Engaging in these fair projects requires the youth to become subject matter experts in their species of interest. They also learn to follow through on commitments, solve problems, overcome obstacles, and learn responsibility. For the MSU Tollgate Farm 4-H Club members, animal projects are a year long journey. The kids must routinely care for the animals at MSU Tollgate Farm in addition to completing educational activities and learning how to groom and show their animals. The most unique feature of this program is that it allows kids, with no connection to a family farm, the opportunity to show livestock. Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, the Club will continue caring for and learning about livestock and poultry, sell farm products made by youth at their farmstand (goat milk soap, granola, fruit leather, herb vinegars, etc), fundraise for Club activities, and lead community service projects.

Learn more about the MSU Tollgate Farm 4-H Club and MSU Tollgate Farm at their respective websites. The farm also accepts donations to support educational programs with livestock and agriculture here

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Sprouts Farm Camp: Wednesday-Friday


We welcome beautiful weather at camp this Wednesday! Today we started our morning with  animals as you can see the Green peppers loved hanging out with the chickens! We found 17 eggs, with one hen laying on 6! 

After animal chores we made a snack for the ponies. We learned about knife safety and nutrition. 

Then off to feed the ponies! They LOVED their snack! 

After horses we went on a hike with Mr. Mike to explore the forest. We learned how to identify some plants and explored animal homes. 

After all that walking we were hot and needed to visit the Mrs. Mister to cool off. 

Then it was time for our human snack and reflection.  What a wonderful day 🙂 


Happy Thursday and another day of no rain 🙂 

Today we have a busy day planned! Hope we can fit it all in 🙂 

First stop is to visit Ms. Darby in the CSA Fields where we can learn about ag and growing vegetables. We walked the tomato pepper hoops, we sniffed sage, we touched dinosaur kale, and we ate basil. The morning crew even got to pull some carrots and the afternoon crew learned about pests (horn worms, gross!). 

After the CSA fields we went to do our animal chores! We had a lot of fun with the goats, ducks, and chickens! 

After chores we went off to explore the pond and have a snack of farm fresh carrots and cucumber. 

After the pond we went to the horse barn to meet Ms. Sam and learn all about horse grooming. We groomed Sesame and Friday our two ponies. 

Then it was time to go home! See you all tomorrow! 


Rainy Friday! We did a lot of everything. 

First, we painted backpacks using fruits and vegetables as stamps. 

Then we went out an hung out with the animals. Some inside and some outside. 

Then when the weather picked up we found shelter and read a book and had snack. Smoothies with hidden veggies today! 

A lot of rain fun was had since there was no thunder to scare us away! 

We said our goodbyes to the worms as we reviewed what it means to compost. 

See you next year Sprouts! We had a blast learning with you 🙂 

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Sprouts Farm Camp 2021: Monday-Tuesday


Happy Monday Sprouts Campers!
Today we had a busy and rainy first day of camp! We might have gotten a little wet today, but that didn’t prevent us from having a great time!

We started our day with a wagon ride around the farm. We saw turkeys, some saw a cayote, deer, and all the other animals on our farm.

After the wagon ride we had a visit with some farm animals. We saw the chickens, goats, rabbits, and ducks depending on the group. We will visit with all the animals by the end of the week. 🙂 

After the animal time we had snack which was a smoothie and read the book “Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt” by Kate Messner. 

We also learned about tie dye and tie dyed our camp t shirts. We will wear these colorful t shirts on Friday. Each camper got to choose their pattern, colors, and sprayed their shirt. We can’t wait to see all them on Friday.

After all of the activities it was already time to go home! We cant wait to see everyone tomorrow 🙂 



Happy Tuesday and welcome back to Tollgate Farm Camp! Today we are hoping for better weather because we have a lot of fun planned for today. 

We started the day with Garden Time. We joined Ms. Katie and our garden volunteers in the Educational Garden to play a plant scavenger hunt and to learn about plants and pests. 

Each camp group did amazing finding all the pieces and the many groups finished off their garden time collecting potato beetle pests to feed to the chickens. 

Then off to the animals! We all got to see a new animal today? Which animals did your camper go see?

After the animals we had snack where we made delicious bugs. We took apples, Sunbutter, crackers, and raisens and made them into delicious beetles and butterflies. 

Then we went off to dig in the dirt and learn about vermicomposting. We learned about the parts of worms, what compost is, and why it is good for the earth. 

Then it was time to learn how to milk a goat. A lot of campers went home with gloves to try it again at home. You can fill up the glove with water, tie it like a balloon, and poke a hole on one or more of the udders (fingers) and practice your goat milking. 

After goat milking we learned about sheep wool and felting. We used friction from our hands to felt our own bracelets from Tollgate Farm sheep wool. 

Then time to go home! Looking forward to seeing all tomorrow 🙂 

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