Nature Camp has long taken pride in the food we serve campers and staff. Our cooks prepare three balanced, nutritious meals a day using fresh ingredients as much as possible and practical. Nature Camp’s varied menu includes many meatless meals, and vegetarian and vegan options are always available as alternatives to dishes containing meat. Campers may frequently help themselves to fresh fruit after meals and free of charge in the canteen (camp store).
In 2006 Nature Camp constructed a small garden of raised beds, where we grow greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and other produce to supplement food purchased for the kitchen. More recently we have begun to acquire more locally sourced food. In 2009 we established the first of three current relationships with local vegetable producers, who have supplied the kitchen with potatoes, onions, lettuce, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, beets, carrots, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, peaches, and plums. Over 30 percent of the food dollars Nature Camp spent in 2010 went toward food grown, raised, or produced within 100 miles of Vesuvius.
In addition to our local vegetable producers, Nature Camp’s other food vendors include
- Donald’s Meat Processing—In October 2009 Charlie Potter, a fifth-generation cattle farmer in Rockbridge County, reopened Donald’s Meat Processing, along with Steve and Tim Donald, whose grandfather had founded the original business, Donald’s Slaughterhouse, in the 1930s just outside of Lexington. Now operating as both an abattoir and retail store, Donald’s Meat Processing, a USDA-inspected facility, carries Charlie Potter’s own Buffalo Creek beef, as well as beef from other local producers and chicken and pork from the surrounding area.
- Mountain View Farm Products—Christie and Fred Huger operate a dairy farm near Fairfield. Christie makes artisanal cheese, butter, and other dairy products under the label Mountain View Farm Products. The Hugers, who occasionally supply beef to Nature Camp as well, raise their cattle without added hormones or antibiotics.
- Wade’s Mill—Jim and Georgie Young operate Wade’s Mill, a water-powered grist mill in nearby Raphine which dates to approximately 1750. There they produce stone-ground flour, much of it from wheat grown in the Valley of Virginia. In 2010 our cooks baked almost all the bread consumed at Nature Camp, using over 1300 pounds of flour from Wade’s Mill.
- Homestead Creamery—Located near Burnt Chimney in Franklin County, Homestead Creamery obtains all its milk from two local dairy farms. Their pasteurized milk, which does not contain added hormones or antibiotics, is sold in reusable glass bottles. Nature Camp purchases Homestead Creamery milk through Donald’s Meat Processing.
WHY BUY LOCAL FOOD?
We believe that supporting local food vendors is not only consistent with, but central to, our mission at Nature Camp. Buying local food
- Protects the environment—The average item of food in the United States travels nearly 1500 miles before reaching the table. Buying locally reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and lessens the need for wasteful packaging material.
- Safeguards health—Nature Camp has established relationships with food producers which generally avoid (or refrain from using altogether) pesticides, herbicides, synthetic chemicals, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed. Local fruits and vegetables are generally fresher, more flavorful, and more nutritious than produce grown commercially and shipped long distances
- Strengthens the local, rural economy—Purchasing food from individuals you know keeps money in the local community and supports family farm operations. Since 1935, the U.S. has lost 4.7 million farms, while large corporations have come to increasingly dominate food production. If every Virginia household spent at least $10 a week on locally grown food, more than $137 million would be invested in local farms, independent businesses and the community every month, totaling more than $1.65 billion a year.
For more information and to help find local sources of food in your community, visit these websites: