MSU Tollgate Farm Steward Teen Leadership Program 2021

What is a Steward? A steward is a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something. This experience offers teens a chance to enrich, mentor, and lead campers while gaining valuable leadership and life skills. In a positive educational environment, teens experience the responsibilities associated with potential career paths before entering college. The Tollgate Camp Teen Steward (15-19 yrs) and Tollgate Steward-in-Training (13-14 yrs) positions are for teens interested in gaining experience working with campers in the farm setting. 

The Stewards-in-Training (SIT) program is the start of the progressive MSU Tollgate Teen Leadership Program. Stewards-in-Training are 13-14 years of age and must have the ability to commit to one full week of camp and no more than 4 weeks. SITs serve as role models for campers during activities.

The Stewards program is for teens 15-19 years of age as volunteer assistants to the educational leaders and role models for both SITs and campers. Stewards develop a deep understanding and knowledge of the farm and our educational camp program and develop skills which can be called upon as they move forward through their academic and work careers.

This camp season, we needed our SIT and Stewards more than ever to help us navigate camp in these unprecedented times. Not only did our SIT and Stewards come ready to support our limited staff and smaller camper groups, they stewarded campers through the camp many know and love after more than a year of interrupted school and changes in routines.

Each morning our Stewards and SITs came ready to help with camp chores to get everything set up to start the day. They then helped welcome our campers at our new check-in location and guided them throughout the day through their camp activities with their educational leader. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Stewards and SITs had their own team building and leadership activities where they explored what makes a strong team and how to be an effective leader. These activities and games are applicable to camp situations with their own campers but also to their own daily lives and future careers. After camp on Tuesdays, Stewards and SITs met with our camp staff to reflect on the highs and lows of their camp days and brainstorm ways to more effectively steward campers.

Outside of their camp weeks, Stewards and SITs were invited to our Mid-Summer Celebration to hear speakers, engage in team-building activities, eat, and celebrate all their accomplishments and growth. At the end of the camp season, our Stewards and SITs helped clean up from a busy camp season and celebrated the closing of camp with food, games, and paper plate awards. We highlight the strengths of these incredible teens and celebrated all over their growth over the season. We are incredibly grateful to these Stewards and SITs for their hard work, enthusiasm, and positive attitude that made MSU Tollgate Farm Summer Camp 2021 a year we will never forget! We look forward to seeing the next group of Stewards and SITs in Summer of 2022. Interested in this program for your teen or a friend or family member? Bookmark our webpage or check out facebook for updates and sign up dates this winter.

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Splish Splash Water Camp 2021:


Happy Monday and happy Last week of summer camp this summer! Wild how quickly this summer is going by– I am not sure we are ready for it to end!

This beautiful Monday the Orange Peppers kicked off the day with flag ceremony. After flag ceremony we went down to the pavilion for the Stewards and Stewards in Training to lead us in our C.A.R.E.S. Contact skits.

After skits we headed out on a wagon ride around the farm! We saw quite a few deer out there! 

After it was time to head out to the garden. We learned about the importance of rain, why its important to track rain, how to use a rain gauges, etc.. We also were able to harvest some tomatoes for salsa later this week! 

After the garden it was time to do some animal chores! We also found a snack out in the goat pastures, the Yellow peppers had no fear. 

After chores it was time to do our tie dye for camp t shirt Friday and then off to lunch! 

After lunch we took a hike to the pond to learn about Riparian Buffers and their importance to water/animal/human heath. We read the story “Riparian’s River” and took a pond walk to see it in action. 

After that we learned about erosion and how we can prevent it on our farm. We created our own little rived edge bottles and watched how we could use rocks, plants, mulch to prevent erosion and loosing our soil. 

After we headed over to the pavilion to have snack and paint our “teams” flag. 

Last activity for today was talking about our STEAM project for the week: Boat Building. We will work on building our boats this week and then test them out on Friday. 

Great Monday Campers! See you all tomorrow! 


Happy Tuesday! The Yellow Peppers kicked off the day with flag ceremony. 

After flag ceremony it was time to make some delicious Pony snacks for Sesame and Friday. We practiced our cutting and cooking skills and made them a delicious vegetable salad. As you can tell the ponies and humans loved it! 

After animal snacks it was time to head over to the Edu Garden to meet the Edu Garden Volunteers for a fun day in the garden doing various water activities. We made music with water, had a water balloon fight, and then made mini tornados in water bottles. After these fun activities we harvest some carrots of our afternoon snack and hung out in the mister to cool off! 

Then we headed over to the field to learn about how cities, houses, and farms use water and how we pollute the water. We learned that doing our best to use less water is the answer! 

Nest we headed over to the barn to do our animal chores. The green peppers got to milk a goat today! We learned about the importance of cleanliness and the uses of goats milk. 

After lunch we got building our boat. We have 3 days to make a functioning boat that we will test out on Friday. 

Then we headed out to the forest to build a waterproof shelter. We also talked about why a waterproof shelter would be important, different supplies you can use, and good and bad locations for shelters. 

The final activity of the day was playing water wizards. Water is a magical thing and has incredible powers. Its soft and easy to move and manipulate but can also be powerful and shapes our landscape everyday. Today we tested surface tension and talked about cohesion and adhesion. 

What a fun day! See you all tomorrow 🙂 


Happy Wednesday! Today the green peppers led our flag ceremony and did a terrific job!

After flag it was time to rush over to canoeing! We learned the importance of being safe on canoes, how to paddle, what to do if you go over, and played some games in the water. It was a great day to explore the pond 🙂 

After canoeing we headed over to the creek and learned about beaver and human dams. We even got to make our own beaver dam and test it against water. The campers did great! 

Then we headed over to the barn to do our animal chores for the day. The Yellow peppers got to milk a goat today and it went the smoothest yet. It was exciting to see all the campers do such a good job milking Sage. 

After chores we did our last morning activity which was learning about the watershed. We created our own city and talked about where the water goes after it rains and what it might carry with it. The campers did a great job exploring watersheds and learning about how to keep them clean! 

After lunch we spent far too long trying to capture a run away chicken– Campers loved it.. but that darn chicken is too good! Maybe tomorrow with the net we can get her! Then we headed out to the forest to test our shelters against water. I think all the camper did amazing testing their shelters against the harsh rainy conditions. 

Then we headed over to the barn to continue building our boats. The campers boats are looking quite good! 

After boat building we headed over to the silo for snack and to read the Fishy Story. We had discussions on how we can do our part to prevents pollution. 

Then, casting practice! Tomorrow is fishing day so today we tested our skills on land and oh boy the fish better be nervous because we have some super star fishermen/woman this week! 

After casting practice we headed over to the forest to test our waterproof shelters. They worked quite great! 

Happy Wednesday! See you all tomorrow 🙂 


Happy Thursday! The orange peppers got to kick off the morning with leading flag ceremony. They did an amazing job!

After, we headed out to the pond to go fishing. The campers did an amazing job keeping sprirts up on this hot day. We caught a lot of fish! 

After fishing we learned about irrigation and designed our own gravity powered irrigation system. Leaks were a definite problem, however, the campers were up for the challenge and were excellent problem solvers! 

Then we headed over to the barn for the final day to build on our boats. Tomorrow we test ! 

Next we did our animal chores for the day. Today the orange peppers got to milk a goat! They did amazing! 

After lunch we headed out to the forest for a vernal pool hike. Vernal pools are awesome because they are seasonal pools of water that provide a habitat for distinctive animals! Although vernal pools are amazing, and we could enjoy them probably for an entire camp day, the mosquitoes were so bad so we ran in and ran out very quickly! 

Once we escaped the forest we headed over to the CSA fields to learn about irrigation from farmer Darby! From the rain from the sky to the reservoir to fire hoses were learned all about irrigation and how they use it to grow their vegetables. 

The final 2 activities were pond dipping where we explored the ponds edge and learned about the life it brings! Campers loved the crayfish hunt and the cooler temperature that the shade and water brought them! After the pond we enjoyed some fresh tollgate tomato, garlic and onion salsa!

Thanks for a great day, see you tomorrow for Slip n slide Friday! 


Happy Friday! We started the morning with the green peppers hosting the final flag ceremny of the summer. Going to miss these mornings <3 

Todays schedule got a little mixed up and changed with the weather. Although we didn’t get too much rain, we did get a lot of thunder. We seeked shelter for about half the day and took the opportunity to hangout, play games, read books, completed some challenges and have fun! 

When the thunder was over we were able to have a great time outside testing our boats and hanging out on the slip n slide. What a great summer camp season! Looking forward to enjoy these memories for years to come. Thank you all! 

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Survival Camp 2021: Monday – Friday

Welcome to Survival Camp 2021! 

Check out the photos below with a brief description to learn about the fun we have this week! 


First off we kicked off the camp week with a wagon ride around Tollgate! We saw all sorts of wild life and farm life! 

Next we went off to the garden to do some weeding and watering and enjoy a tasty garden fresh snack. We had beans, peas, tomatoes, and carrots! 

Then it was time to Tie Dye our camp t shirts. We got a little bit of color everywhere– Cant wait to see the finished products on Friday! 

Then it was time to do our animal chores for the day. We will rotate the chores throughout the week so we all get to meet and interact with everyone! 

After lunch we headed over to the forest to start our Survival Shelter! We learned about different types of shelters and will get to work on ours more through out the week! 

Then after we had fishing practice. We learned how to use the fishing rod at Tollgate safely and what to do and what not to do during fishing tomorrow. All the campers did amazing! 

The final two activities of the day included team flag painting for our wagon and then wilderness first aid where we learned about how to treat someone if they found themselves injured in the wilderness. We learned about litters, splints, hypothermia and more! 

Great kick off to a great week! See you all tomorrow! 


Happy Tuesday! The day started off with animal chores. The Green Pepper group was the first group to milk a goat! We learned about what animals are used for on a farm, what we can do with goat milk, and the importance of cleanliness. We milked Sage and are happy to report it went great and all the campers were excited to milk!

After animal chores we headed over to the pond to learn how to filter water in the case of a desperate need for clean water for survival. Although we didn’t have time to boil the water to make it drinkable, we were able to filter out a lot of the dirt and debris to make it cleaner! 

After we made almost clean drinking water we went over to the garden to meet our Garden Volunteers to learn about the parts of seeds and what they use for survival vs what we use for survival! We spent some time harvesting carrots after for a delicious snack! 

After the garden we headed to the shade to cool off, play games, and act out skits on the Leave No Trace principals. 

After lunch we got to test our balance and patience as we walked across the slack line! 

Then it was the long awaited activity, FISHING ! We caught more than a few fish and all were great sports! 

Then time to snack on some farm fresh carrots ! Delicious! 

After snacking it was time to get back to work on our shelter and then time to go home! Another great day! 


Happy to announce the weather was great so we got to start our Wednesday with canoeing. What a test of arm strength and team work canoeing around the pond! 

After canoeing we participated in more Leave No Trace Skits. The campers do a great job acting out and engaging in fulfilling conversations. 

After LNT we played a game of Owls and Mice and had snack! After a quick bite and game we headed over to the animals to do animal chores. Yellow peppers got to milk a goat today! 

After chores we got put our animal culinary skills to the test. We got to prepare a delicious feast for the ponies, Friday and Sesame. 

Obviously the ponies LOVED their treats!

After cooking for the animals we learned about solar energy and how we can use the sun to cook some food! We built our very own solar ovens using a pizza box, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap. We will cook S’mores in them tomorrow. 

After construction we got to learn about hunting and played a quick game of mammoths and hunters using flour in the forest and garden. 

After hunting it was time to work on our Shelter a little bit longer! Just 2 more days to work on it before we have to “Leave No Trace” and tear it down. 

See you all tomorrow! 


Happy Thursday! 

Kicked off the morning with filling up our solar ovens with the s’more supplies so that they could cook in the sun all day. 

After it was time to visit Farmer Darby in the CSA field to learn about the life of onions from seed to dinner table. The campers had a fun time harvesting onions that have been growing in the field for months. 

After visiting with Famer Darby we headed over to the animal barn to do some chores. The orange peppers got to milk a goat today! 

After chores we grabbed a goat to take on a haltered animal hike. We learned about how people use donkeys to carry some of the weight of equipment on long treks– so we had our goat carry our snacks and sanitizer for our trek. 

After lunch we learned about the use of fires, parts of fires, what fires need, and how to make a fire. Campers loved using the various fire starting supplies to start their own fire. They were very safe and were able to start a fire and keep it fueled. Great job! 

Then we headed deeper in the forest to continue to build on our shelter.  We continued to strengthen our walls and will finish it and tear it down tomorrow. 

Then we headed back to shade for snacking on S’mores and an activity on how to use a compass. What a busy but great day! Wish everyday could be like today! Great job campers! 


Happy Tie Dye T shirt Friday!

Green Peppers hosted the Friday Flag ceremony and did a terrific job!

After flag ceremony we headed off to our last chores session for the week. Had to say our farewells to all the animals. 

After chores we went off on a foraging hike and learned about all the cool edible and medicinal plants all around us! 

Then it was time to attempt to make a grass rope that is supposedly strong enough to pull a car. Although ours wasn’t quite that strong we had a great time attempting and made a new activity call farm fashion! 

Then we played some games, had some lunch and then it was already time to go out into the woods for a hike, to finish our shelters and then Leave No Trace and tear them down. It was sad to see them go but look forward to future camps also using those logs to build shelters of their own. 

Then time to play capture the flag, enjoy some popsicles, and play the final game of capture the flag! 

Thanks for the great week! WE SURVIVIED! 

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The Journey of an Onion: Seed to Plate with the MSU Tollgate Farm Sustainable Agriculture Team

We are harvesting onions! Come along on the journey from seed to your plate.

It can take over 100 days from seed to harvestable bulb, so we start in February in the greenhouse. There was still snow on the ground, but the greenhouse was nice and warm for our onion seedlings to spend the first eight weeks of their journey.

Baby onions in our greenhouse

Next, we transplanted the seedlings out into our fields the last week of April. Onions require lots of water, sunlight, and minimal competition from weeds to grow large bulbs.

Onions are photothermoperiodic, meaning they are sensitive to temperature and day length. Onion varieties require a specific number of daylight hours each day for a certain number of days to form the bulb! There are three classifications of onion varieties: Long-day, which requires 14-16 hours of daylight per day, Short-day, which need 10-12 hours of sunlight per day and Intermediate or Day-neutral, which requires 12-14 hours per day. 

After the Summer Solstice, the onions start to sense the shortening of the days. The plants will stop forming leafy tops and start putting their energy into developing the bulbs. As the summer continues to wind down and the plant continues to focus its energy on the bulb, the plants show a physiological response known as “tops down” when the top of the plant falls over. The tops falling is a sign that the onion is ready to be harvested from the field.

For optimal storage quality, we must cure onions after harvest. Plants are pulled from the ground and left out in the field or moved to a greenhouse or hoop house. Curing decrease the possibility of neck rot, reduces water loss during storage and prevents microbial infection. Curing is complete with the neck of the plant is fully dry.

Onions curing

Once fully cured, we trim the onion roots and tops off and store the onions to distribute throughout the winter.

Next time you are at the store or farmer’s market buying an onion, remember the long journey it took to get to you!

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Join the Tollgate Farm 4-H Club for the 2021-2022 Year

What do Tollgate Farm 4-H Club Member do?

  • Kids help with Livestock and Poultry care during the weekends. This means collecting eggs, feeding, filling buckets and troughs, pen cleaning etc. 
  • We grow produce/ herbs for sale.
  • We sell eggs.
  • We sell value added products: dried fruit, goat milk soap, granola, etc. The kids make these products.  
  • We use a portion of the proceeds from sales to support the animal barn. The remainder supports club activities.
  • Kids are encouraged to participate in the Oakland County and Michigan State fairs.
  • Some of our members choose to participate in our showmanship program. This allows them to use Tollgate animals to participate in showmanship at the Oakland County Fair. 
  • The kids also have the opportunity to participate in public events at Tollgate. We usually have a farm stand sale and also help with farm animal display.

Tollgate Farm 4-H Club is open to new members age 5 – 19. We meet Wednesday evening and to chores on weekends 

For more information:




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