Back in 1988, my father, Billy Lancaster, decided to start a forestry camp for young kids. He went to one when he was a kid and wanted today’s youth to have the same opportunity he had at their age. With the help of some of his good friends who were also in the forestry business, they raised funds, set the curriculum, got volunteers, and set out finding students for the five-day camp. They wanted to create a place where students could learn about how forestry affects their everyday life. The founders also wanted youth to realize forestry was way more than just cutting down trees. Since that first camp in 1988, kids from all over Georgia have participated.
Every summer, my family goes to the FFA Center in Covington, Georgia to help out with the camp. Some of my best memories include my parents and all of the other volunteers giving their time to support it. The volunteers are passionate about forestry and teaching it to future generations. It is rare that so many people within different fields of the same profession can come together to teach and help future foresters grow and learn.
These professionals use their knowledge and skills to teach the kids about logging, paper making, how to use forestry tools, how much a tree is worth, how to calculate distances, and so much more. Every year a favorite activity is when the campers get to experience an active logging operation. In addition, the campers always enjoy getting to venture away from the FFA Center to visit a tree farm.
At forestry camp, campers’ knowledge of forestry grows tremendously over the course of five days. On the first day, campers make paper by hand from pulp. By the fifth day, campers have an understanding of what it took for a tree to be made into that piece of paper. By having so many volunteers who are professionals in the field of forestry supporting the curriculum of the camp, campers are exposed to an incredible variety of what the field of forestry has to offer as a future profession.
My wife, mother, and I look forward to helping out with the camp every year. I like talking to the kids and finding out what they’re into and where they’re from. Some campers have no idea what forestry is, and some grew up in the industry as I did. All of the campers are surprised at how much forestry affects their daily lives. As a father of two children under the age of two, I look forward to the growth the camp will experience and the memories my own children will one day make as campers as well.
Due to COVID, the camp has not taken place in the past two years, but this year, this year, we’re excited to welcome campers back to forestry camp. It will be held July 10-14 at the FFA-FCCLA Center in Covington, Georgia, and is open to both boys and girls, ages 12 and 13. Over the past couple of years, we have worked diligently to develop a website to better represent the camp’s focus and mission.
By visiting the website, https://www.billylancastercamp.com/, parents can register their children for camp, as well as keep up with all of the camp’s latest news.
This blog was originally posted on the Georgia Forestry Commission Blog.