Farm Camp plants a ‘seed’
SIMMONSVILLE – Although Craig County kids are more likely to know how their food was grown or raised, not all young people do.
That’s why Sue Bostic sponsored two sessions of a day-long Farm Camp at her family’s tree and pumpkin farm, Joe’s Trees in the Simmonsville area of Craig County near Newport.
“I’m planting the seed to let these kids know where their food comes from, that their Halloween pumpkins and pumpkin pie they’re eating started out at someone’s farm, and somebody spun the wool from sheep for their sweaters,” explained Bostic.
Bostic held two sessions of Farm Camp at Joe’s Trees this summer, giving youngsters an opportunity to learn about everything from how corn plants pollinate in the farm’s corn maze that will be open in the fall, searching for baby pumpkins on the vines, seeing how Christmas trees grow, and getting up close and personal with sheep and alpacas and seeing how their wool is turned into yarn.
The long-necked baby alpacas, an inquisitive pot bellied pig, miniature horse and donkey, goats and more were brought by Little Critters Traveling Petting Zoo, which is owned by Coy “Chip” Shupe of Botetourt County. Jake Bostic showed off Clover and Scar, the two lambs he is raising as a 4-H livestock project.
At the July 12 Farm Camp, more than a dozen 8-13-year-olds even got to try their hand at carding and spinning sheep’s wool. Craig County resident Carla Old brought raw wool, carding combs, a drop spindle and a small spinning wheel. Most of the dozen kids tried their hands at turning the fluffy wool into yarn.
“Spinning is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time,” said Old.
“She makes all this stuff look really easy,” one camper remarked.
Taylor Huffman’s favorite part of the day was getting to feed and learn about the animals. “We fed the sheep, and there were chickens and alpacas and a guinea pig. Down the hill in the barn there are ducks and a donkey and some bunnies.”
It was 8-year-old Samantha Gentry’s first time meeting an alpaca. “I liked it, even though it stuck its head through the gate.” Justin Hurley noted the alpacas spit at each other, but not the kids, “and their hair is softer than sheep’s wool.”
Emma Moore enjoyed the tractor ride up the hills to see crops growing. “We went up to where the corn maze is, and learned ‘cornology’ (as Sue Bostic dubbed it), how corn is pollinated.”
They posed for a group photograph with a volunteer corn plant, which they learned planted itself nearby the corn maze, instead of being planted by people. That corn plant had already tasseled (put out the flower at the top that produces pollen that falls onto silk to produce kernels in ears of corn. The maze corn hadn’t yet.
“Corn gets pollinated by bugs and wind,” Taylor explained. And they learned “a lot of food has corn in it,” another girl said.
The corn maze they ran through was a particular draw, kids said. “It’s taller than I am, and it’s fun.”
Bryson Taylor was interested in the livestock and poultry. “We looked and learned about the roosters, and the hens and what kind of eggs they lay.”
Bryson was more interested in sheep after “Jake told us how he shows them, and how judges judge the quality of the meat they have, looking at their stomach areas.” Although Bryson has never eaten lamb meat, after Farm Camp he said, “I might try it.”
Seth Helm, who is 13, has his own sheep and horses, “and my sister raised pigs as a livestock project. We eat them a lot ourselves,” he added.
Half the group made vanilla ice cream by shaking a mixture in small zip bags, while the others took turns trying to spin wool. Spinning on the big walking wheels took time and a person dedicated to it, said Old. She explained that an unmarried woman’s job would be to spin wool for her community, and from the verb “spin” came the term “spinster,” which in those days was an honored job.
“Fibers have scales that allow wool to stick together, which is what makes a fiber instead of a hair,” Old told them. She showed the kids that if they rubbed wool harshly or washed it roughly causes the wool fibers to felt and become matted.
Earlier that day the young people tried out a new attraction at Joe’s Trees, mining for fossils and gems in the mining sluice. “You use a screen and a pan for it in a trough of running water,” Sue Bostic explained. “Quartz crystals are the only type found on our farm.”
On Sept. 29, Joe’s Trees on Rt. 42, Cumberland Gap Road, will hold a 50th-year anniversary celebration. The original Christmas tree farm was started by Bostic’s late father, Joe Sublett, and Sue, the youngest of six children, expanded the tree selection, added a wreath shop, the pumpkin patch and corn maze. There will be tours of what the kids did at Farm Camp, Sue Bostic said, with photographs made by Sue Huffman, Bostic’s friend who is the manager of the wreath shop, and free hay rides as well as local vendors.