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Alumni and Friends

Two Gifts Benefit Historic Millstone 4-H Camp

A group of people cutting a ribbon
Vance Dalton (center) with others at the Millstone Dining Hall ribbon cutting.

Written by: Lea Hart

Millstone 4-H Camp in Ellerbe has a significant place in North Carolina 4-H history as the longest consistently operating 4-H camp in the state.

Now the camp, which has operated since 1939, will be even better prepared for the future thanks to two significant gifts. 

A gift from the Farm Credit Associations of North Carolina, which includes AgCarolina Farm Credit, Cape Fear Farm Credit and Carolina Farm Credit, will support renovating the 80-year-old dining hall at Millstone.

A separate gift from James W. Clark Jr., a longtime friend of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and supporter of the state’s 4-H program, and a professor emeritus in North Carolina State University’s Department of English, will support the future of learning within the North Carolina 4-H History and Learning Center Complex at Millstone. In recognition of his generosity, the classroom is officially named as the Clark Classroom.

The gifts were driven by two men with a love and appreciation for North Carolina 4-H and its impact on youth across the state.

Vance Dalton, president and CEO of Carolina Farm Credit, led the fundraising charge for the Farm Credit Associations. Dalton grew up on a small farm and later graduated from NC State. Though he didn’t participate in 4-H as a youth due to his commitments to his family’s farm, Dalton said he witnessed the impact of Extension and 4-H while serving as an agent with the NC State Cooperative Extension Service from 1989 to 1993. He changed career paths in 1993, joining Carolina Farm Credit. Dalton also serves on the board of directors for the NC 4-H Development Fund.

We believe in the future of agriculture, and we believe in 4-H and FFA.

The Farm Credit Associations gift is part of a long-term plan to support 4-H and FFA. Each year, the Farm Credit Associations hold an annual fundraising event, Pull for Youth, which Dalton describes as an event similar to a golf tournament but at a shooting range. The event takes place in several locations across the state and funds raised each year are split between 4-H and FFA.

“We believe in agriculture, we believe in the future of agriculture, and we believe in 4-H and FFA,” Dalton said.

The organization had heard that there were needs for significant upgrades at Millstone, and committed to raising $250,000 over five years to go toward the renovations.

“Millstone is an awesome camp – we saw an opportunity there to have an impact across the state,” Dalton said.

Clark’s history with 4-H began as a youth, participating himself while growing up in Warren County. He’s a long-time supporter of 4-H in many ways and was recognized for that support in 2017 when he was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.

He’s witnessed the growth at Millstone as it transitioned from a summer experience to a facility that can support activities throughout the year. Clark was part of the group that helped make the history and learning complex a reality in 2016.

An older man standing next to the Millstone 4-H sign
Jim Clark at the Millstone 4-H Camp.

“It just seemed to me, as part of the history and learning center, they needed a classroom that could serve as an up-to-date place to enhance the experience of what 4-H’ers do, which is learning by doing,” Clark said. “Millstone, I think, would be a place that lifelong 4-H’ers in North Carolina know and revere – I want to preserve, want to enrich, and want to enlarge that experience.”

A Shared Appreciation for 4-H

Farm Credit Associations and Clark share a similar vision for the future of 4-H – one that encourages youth participation in 4-H and recognizes the valuable education and life skills gained from the 4-H experience.

The Farm Credit Associations know it’s important for new people to continue to enter the field of agriculture, Dalton said. 

“We want people to get involved and stay involved in agriculture,” he said. “To learn about the importance of agriculture, the future of agriculture, and how they can build their rural communities for folks to stay in, and want to come back to those communities.”

On a more personal note, Dalton said he’s seen the impact throughout his life of 4-H on youth, including the opportunities it gives some youth that they might not have access to otherwise. From public speaking skills to leadership skills, Dalton said the youth he worked with 35 years ago have grown up to be very successful.

The secret of 4-H success is the adaptability the program exercises as society changes.

“We need those people to step up, to serve in roles such as county commissioners,” Dalton said. “We need representation, people who understand and can tell the story of agriculture.”

Support is also about keeping the programs relevant and enhancing the future of those programs.

“I think the secret of 4-H success is the adaptability the program exercises as society changes,” Clark said.

4-H has changed its curriculum and changed the nature of how instruction is delivered over the years to meet the changing times, he said. He also noted 4-H recognizes its project and activity champions by giving them scholarships for future study or travel to further the concept of learning by doing.

“4-H used to be a ‘club,’ but no longer,” Clark said. “It’s that overall learning by doing, and it’s actually engrained in making the best practices of our grandparents even better in our own times.”