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Tim Magner

believes in the magic of camp to create growth opportunities by connecting kids with the natural world in a novel and challenging environment. While visiting schools as a children's book author and running Truck Farm Chicago he studied the food system and learned about what's possible. Tim taught skiing to kids in Colorado, golf in North Carolina and was a camp counselor in Georgia. He's tutored & served on school boards and will never forget 'his' camp, Camp Highlands.

Julia Dornbush - Head Counselor

comes to us after spending twelve summers at her own camp in the Berkshires of Massachusetts where she was a camper, a counselor, a waterfront staff and a Unit Director (with a staff of thirty!). Since graduating Grinnell College, Julia has worked as an AmeriCorps member with Playworks, at an elementary school in Chicago. In her free time, you'll find Julia playing frisbee, finding a dog to pet, or eating ice cream. She can't wait to share her love of food, farming and camp this summer!

Dustin Thacker Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 1.55.30 PM 

grew up on a farm in central Illinois.  He loves challenging people to think bigger and to be curious.  As the director of Tinkering School Chicago, he has made a career out playing in the woods and helping children engage in big open ended building projects that spark their imagination. Dustin is all about enjoying the process.

Dante Donelson - Activities Director & Counselor

Dante is returning to the world of camping! He grew up a camper, then worked at several different sleep away summer camps in Wisconsin in several roles, including training staff and as an instructor (of things like survival skills). He's currently a 5th grade science teacher at a Chicago Public School. He loves the outdoors and has a passion for working with children and believes they should have the opportunity to enjoy nature and learn at the same time. Dante's interests include Formula One and cooking. 

Jess Charlotte - Wellness Director & Counselor

Jess is a nature lover who is also a licensed mental health counselor. She has provided therapeutic services to a diverse population of children, adolescents and adults over the last seven years. Her work involves art therapy, sandtray, play therapy and cognitive/behavioral approaches to address present stressors while developing coping skills and fostering positive self-esteem. Jess has a desire to help individuals find overall well-belling, greater self-awareness and inner peace through education, therapy and exposure to nature. Jess is 100% behind the philosophy of Nature’s Farm Camp and looks forward to meeting the goats who sent the postcard! Note: she was also part of a great sleep away summer camp in New York.

Jake Van Wolvelear

is a student at Illinois State University studying Renewable Energy (he's studied in Denmark last year). He brings with him a love for nature, especially when it comes to things like hiking and camping. Jake enjoys spending time woodworking, reading, relaxing outdoors, cooking, and enjoying silly moments with his friends. "I would label myself as a carefully carefree person who plans for success, but lets life take me where it takes me."

Cooking Program

We've been fortunate to have a number of talented instructors in the kitchen over the lScreen Shot 2017-09-17 at 1.22.28 PMast three years, none more talented than Valerie Holze and Shanna Linn.  Valerie joined us for the last 1.5 weeks last summer after working in great Chicago restaurants and running a personal chef business. For 2018, Valerie is joined for all five weeks this summer by former co-worker Shanna, who's just off a commercial sail boat. For much of the last three years, Shanna's been cooking with and for kids.

Sarita Dougherty & Champoy Lim

After a two-year Nature's Farm Camp hiatus, they return! Sarita is the former co-creator of an Art and Nature Camp in Los Angeles. She developed & implemented engaging garden and plant-focused activities to connect youth to nature and has extensive experience sharing the homesteading skills she uses on a daily basis. She’s also a professional artist, exploring the interaction between nature, cities, and cultures. Champ works as a woodworking teacher, but he's also a camper favorite as a talented teacher of comics and puppetry. 

Seneca Kern

For the past ten years, Seneca has built gardens for homes, schools & common spaces. Centered on self-reliance and community revitalization, his work brings home our most local and sustainable food. He's incorporated natural jewelry to heal traumas around land and farming for people of color. Seneca returns to camp this year, for the first week.



We hire passionate people capable of making positive food and nature experiences available to children. They have a ton of energy and experience with kids in the outdoors. They have expertise in Food/Farming, Ecology, Arts or Building, and are good at sharing their skills.  If you're interested, apply HERE. Want to be considered for our cooking programs, click HERE

Thank you to Teams 2015- 2017

Without a doubt, a natural resource as valuable as the delicious veggies we harvest is our Team.
2017: Vicki, Kate, Carolyn, Lea, Sarah Jane, Sarah Jane2, Tatum, Deliah, Patrick, Chef Franklin, Valerie, Dustin, Tomas, Seneca. Without a doubt, the best crew yet 🙂 Visitors included Timber Edge Farm, Brian Severson Farm and State Representative Bennett.
2016: Vicki, Winona, Kate, Eliza, Kathleen, Matt, Carolyn, Susan and Joe: thank you for bringing your energy and delivering a wonderful experience. Visiting Stars included Teddy Z, Warren (Mark Twain), Amanda, Charlie and farmers from Timber Edge Farm and Timber Feast.
2015: Our Camper garden wouldn't have happened without the direction of Kirsten Akre, formerly of Growing PowerThe Kitchen Gardener & Chicago Park District and local farmer Andrew Barelli, with special help from college superstars Effie Bentz and Ashley Quinlan. Many of our seeds came from The Green City Market, our starts from The Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse, Wicker Park Garden Club and LaGrange Park's Master Gardener Bob Zeni. Thank you also to our favorite seed grower: High Mowing Organic Seeds.

We appreciate the guidance of various current and former Camp Directors, notably Bob & Joan Erickson of Arts & Sciences in the Woods and Dustin Thacker of Tinkering School Chicago.

We're also thankful to our supporters who've enabled us to offer financial aid & scholarships: Patrick Suciu, Craig Pratt, Patrick Shannon, Kate Sirkin, Adam Hinrich, Noemi Kopp-Tanaka, Marti Hoffer, Hayes Family, Mack Family, Alice Kao, Marko Vulovic, Brian Lynch, Lauren Beuerlein, Magen Elliot, Gier Bowen, Beth Masterson, Prathima Yeddanapudi, Vic & Amy Morman, John & Linda Fix, CJ Wolf, Marvelous Meccia, Jill Stockard, Joe Digilio, Lena Bravo-Olsher, Reed Watson, Chris Howard, Karl, Amanda Rutter Hanley, Amanda Sargent, Matha Clemons, Gerry Weitz, Erin Kelly, Nilam Trivedi, Marilyn Going, Anna Langston, Susie Kirkwood, Sarah Walter, Jenelle Hammes Sullivan, Brekke Bounds, Nancy McClelland, Dianna Smith, Kate Gross, Kitty River, Marge Shannon, Sally Lian, Mike Judy, Jennifer, Julie Ann Alex DeSorbo-Quinn, Josh S, Christine Hutcheson, Brian"Fox" Ellis, Glenna Sullivan, Robert Fierro, Liz Miller, Rachel Land Browder, Jill May, Elizabeth Sommer, Genna Toledano, Boaz, Grobo, Amanda Nugent, Carly, Kevin Evans, Joel Parker Henderson, Elise Kleinman Jaffe, Chris Niewiarowski.

History of the Founding

Nature's Farm Camp grew out Elena Marre and Tim Magner's experience working together with The Kids' Table and Truck Farm Chicago. It was, and is, about their desire to get kids out of the city and connected to awesomeness (and everything that sustains us). Elena and The Kids' Table ran the cooking portion of the camp for the first two years and we will forever be thankful. Today, Elena is focused on The Kids' Table (and their amazing summer camp in Chicago).