Learn Survival Skills with Campus Farm Workshops

Gauge vital signs, grow mushrooms, brew beer and more

Tawnee Milko, left, talks to group members after examining Anna Willoughby as part of Duke Campus Farm's wilderness survival workshop. Students and employees can now sign up for other workshops to learn how to grow mushrooms, brew beer and more. Photo by

Anna Willoughby was peppered with questions: Was she dizzy? Did she feel pain? What locations on her body hurt the most?

As she responded, Tawnee Milko stood nearby, making note of her answers. Milko and others tried to make a quick diagnosis of Willoughby, who was a "victim" of an accident in the woods that left her with a broken leg and ruptured spleen.

In reality, the group and about 10 others were safe inside the Social Sciences Building where they acted out a scene in a wilderness survival workshop hosted by the Duke Campus Farm.

"Wilderness survival has always been an interest of mine because I love being outdoors and coordinating trips," said Milko, coordinator of the Nicholas School of the Environment's Ambassador Initiative and social media fellow. "Role playing to understand the real-world implications of applying survival knowledge was really valuable."

The wilderness workshop is among several informational programs hosted this spring by Duke Campus Farm. Duke community members can also sign up for upcoming sessions, which include a mushroom growing workshop on Feb. 24, hands-on experiments to discuss the chemistry of food on March 2 and a basic beer brewing program April 4. Each session costs $10, which covers materials and benefits Duke Campus Farm.

During next week's mushroom workshop, participants will learn how to grow shiitake and oyster mushrooms inside and outdoors though hands-on experience inoculating mushroom logs. Once matured, the mushrooms will be served in Duke dining halls, like other produce grown at the farm.

"One of our missions at the farm is to teach others how to grow food, which is one aspect of sustainability and self-sufficiency," said Emily Sloss, manager of Duke Campus Farm. "It's good to know where your food and drink comes from, how it's made and what goes into them."

During the recent wilderness survival program, participants learned the basics of identifying injuries, how to gauge vital signs and determine proper course of action in emergencies far from help. They also relearned their ABCs, although this time, those letters meant "A" for airway, "B" for breathing, "C" for circulation.

Duke community members also got a crash course on how to spot deadly snakes and spiders, something particularly helpful for Martin Brooke, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He owns a small farm space in Durham and wanted to know what he'd be facing if he ever came across a threatening critter.

"I've found Copperhead and Cottonmouth snakes and a brown recluse spider, so it's very helpful to know when to worry about these things," Brooke said. "I spend a lot of time outdoors, so I'm concerned about what to do if I ever encounter a problem."

In addition to workshops, all Duke community members are also welcome to join community workdays at the farm from 1 to 4 p.m. every Sunday. The one-acre farm receives volunteer help from Duke students, faculty and staff who are interested in learning more about how food is grown and the farming process. Everyone is welcome, from first-time farmers to experienced gardeners.