From Farm to Fork

At Gwynn Valley, learning about and participating in our food production is an integral part of camp life.

Since the 1980’s Gwynn Valley has created a hands on environment where children learn where their food comes from.  As family farms are decreasing, children have less investment or knowledge of food production beyond the grocery store. Our working farm raises approximately 60-70% of the food we consume. Our campers learn about harvesting vegetables by pulling, picking and digging in the dirt for carrots, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, corn and more.  They also assist in caring for our farm animals: goats, chickens, baby calves and piglets. Animals need to be cared for throughout the day and our campers are there to witness and help with feeding and the chance to interact with them in ways that large scale farming never sees.  A morning or afternoon at the farm might include bottle feeding calves, practicing some veterinary science, chasing chickens, collecting eggs, harvesting vegetables for our next meal, and playing with the baby goats, piglets or chicks. On an average, we raise 25,000 pounds of vegetables each summer. These vegetables are harvested and transported right to our whole foods kitchen where our campers and staff enjoy fresh, delicious, and healthy meals!  Our farm grows much more than vegetables, meat,and eggs – it nurtures minds, bodies and hearts.

Another aspect of our food production extends to our water powered 1890’s Grist Mill which was established on our site long before there was any thought of the land being a camp for children.  Shell corn, raised on the farm is brought to the mill to be turned into grits, cornmeal and chicken feed.  A visit to the Mill is like stepping back in time.  Our Mill has a variety of old tools, toys, and recipes to cook up over an open fire after the milling is done.  There’s time for a story on occasion as well as dipping your line in the Mill pond to catch a trout.   The water from Carson Creek also powers old fashioned ice cream freezers at the Mill and flavors are up to those creating the recipe.  Our farm, mill, and whole foods kitchen form a wonderful teaching triangle that provides healthy meals for all campers and staff everyday.

For many years Gwynn Valley has practiced the recycling of as many materials as possible that pass through the operation year round.  From paper, plastics, glass and metal, everyone is intent on getting these items recycled.  Campers and staff are educated  as to where materials can be taken to recycle bins throughout camp.  We are doing our best to lessen our footprint on the environment.  All of our toilets are water savers which is the single most effective change you can make to conserve water.   We also heat a good bit of our water with wood fired boilers.  Camp has an abundance of trees and proper tree maintenance provides an outlet for wood to be used in an energy efficient way as well as wood for our campfires because cabin groups love to cook out and make s’mores.  For several years we have experimented with various types of composting of our kitchen waste and we are presently working toward a viable way to handle the waste that comes from our food scraps.  Many years ago we converted to florescent lighting in place of traditional bulb lights.  At present we are converting to LED lighting in many cabins and community buildings.

If you’re interested in reading more about sustainability and our land, here are two articles written about our program:




Conserving Our Land

Since 1995 Gwynn Valley’s land has been in a conservation easement held by Conserving Carolina.  Previous owners, Howie and Betty Boyd initiated the easement agreement looking with great vision toward the future of the camp.   As property owners, we want to make sure that the land and camp operate as long as possible.  The easement keeps us from subdividing the land and holds the entire acreage in tact for future generations of campers and their families.  The easement also contains restrictions against undertaking industrial activities, mining, and timbering. The 43 acre main-camp area allows for replacement or new structures as necessary for the operation of camp, while the natural areas of camp will remain preserved. The terms of the easement are monitored on a yearly basis using the current baseline of land surveys, biological assessments, and photographs.

There are some rare and endangered plants and animals on the property and we want to preserve their habitat for our campers to learn about and enjoy.

We are pleased to have our land protected and to know that Gwynn Valley will be home to many future generations of campers.

The Mill at Gwynn Valley was the original mill location for the Dunn’s Rock community.  It was built in 1890 and was restored to working order for camp in the 1980’s.  The children grind corn grown on our farm, sift it into corn meal and grits, and then cook with it over the fire right outside of the mill.

The Farm at Gwynn Valley

“My children still talk about gathering eggs, making cornmeal and picking vegetables. They have strong work ethics and a sense of responsibility that I attribute to their time at Gwynn Valley.”