Monday, 22 November 2021 19:09

Millstone hosts Richmond County Farmers Appreciation Luncheon

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Richmond County farmers were thanked with food at Millstone 4-H Camp on Monday. See more photos at the bottom of this story. Richmond County farmers were thanked with food at Millstone 4-H Camp on Monday. See more photos at the bottom of this story. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ELLERBE — Earl Graves served up scoops of barbecue to Richmond County’s agricultural leaders Monday for the annual Farmers Appreciation Luncheon.

In addition to the pulled pork, there was grilled chicken — donated by Perdue Farms — with coleslaw, baked beans, potatoes, hushpuppies and cornbread as sides.

The annual meal is usually held at the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Rockingham, but Director Paige Burns told the RO last week the decision was made to move it to Millstone 4-H Camp so attendees could be more spread out.

Each table had photocopies of farm pictures drawn by students at Mineral Springs Elementary and Ellerbe Middle as placemats.

Burns told the crowd on Monday that it was a bit of synergy, since Camp Director Keith Russell was already slated to be the speaker.

As Russell gave a detailed history of the camp, a slideshow of old black and white photos scrolled in the background.

Russell became director in 2014.

“I was fortunate that they asked me where I wanted to go,” Russell recalled. “I said, ‘Well, I’ve never been to the Sandhills, so how about letting me go down to Millstone?’ Fortunately, they agreed and I’m really glad I made that choice.”

The camp was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and opened in 1939, with all of the original buildings — including the multi-purpose dining hall and 12 cabins — made from on-site timber.

The dining hall, according to Russell, has been virtually unchanged over the past 80 years, aside from the windows that were installed in 2010.

Millstone has been in continuous operation aside from a few times, including being used by the military in the early 1940s as a rest and recuperation location for officers and in 2019 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The camp also includes a swimming pool built in 1979, the 4-H Museum — known as “the house that 4-H peanuts built” — and SECU 4-H Learning Center and Cole Foundation Auditorium, which was dedicated in 2016.

The first campers, Russell said, were from Sampson County.

“Since that time, there’s been thousands and thousands of folks that have come through this place,” he said.

In addition to 4-H activities, Millstone also hosts corporate parties and events, contra dancing and medieval reenactment events for the Society for Creative Anachronism. In 2019, Millstone served as the site for search and rescue training.