Gwynn Valley Camp Cultivates Children’s Farm Understanding
For Gwynn Valley Camp owner Grant Bullard, seeing the amazement on children’s faces when they learn about where their hamburger or corn on the cob comes from never gets old.
Bullard and his wife, Anne, have owned and operated Gwynn Valley for more than a decade, but the camp itself has been a Transylvania County treasure for 75 years. Scores of children have experienced what it’s like to milk a cow, pick fresh string beans and lettuce or shuck corn for the first time. The camp’s objective is all about showing youngsters how critical agriculture is—that food doesn’t just show up at a grocery store.
“You get all kinds of kids having their eyes opened to aspects of foods that they would have never experienced before,” Grant Bullard says. “It’s a neat approach to a different kind of programming in a summer camp setting.”
As opposed to having food trucks arrive regularly like at a store, the staff at Gywnn Valley raises about 70 percent of the food that’s consumed at the camp during the summer. That amount includes locally raised beef and all vegetables cultivated by farm manager Dale Robertson, who has directed production for many years.
The camp includes a pond stocked with trout that are caught and enjoyed by all during a weekend fish fry. On-site is a refurbished grist mill that’s now used not only to grind corn for various dishes but also to churn old-fashioned ice cream.
“We’re finding very few kids these days have any kind of contact with farms,” Grant Bullard says. “I think 25, 30 years ago, you might find an aunt or uncle or grandparent who owned a farm somewhere in a rural setting. Now less and less you’re finding that among our camper population.”
The campers range from kindergartners through children in the eighth grade. They can stay for just a day or for as long as 20. Bullard indicated not only have children from North Carolina visited and stayed, but youngsters from as far away as Massachusetts and Mississippi have come as well.
Transylvania County Farm Bureau President Jackie Whitmire views Gwynn Valley as a crucial resource for enlightening children about farming and food.
“Many young people today never realize that their food comes from the farmed earth by way of the grocery store. Hopefully this experience will awaken their interest in the American farmer’s role in supplying a healthy and affordable food source for our people,” Whitmire says.
“Perhaps some of the campers will get excited about a future profession related to farming or agribusiness. North Carolina offers a diversified menu of farming opportunities across our state for young farmers,” Whitmire says.