Grist Mill and Gardens hosting ‘virtual field trips’ amid COVID-19

General manager wanted to provide parents with some teaching resources during isolation

All is quiet at the Grist Mill and Gardens just outside of Keremeos.

The mill’s owner and general manager Chris Mathieson said during this time, he and his staff would be preparing the whole property for the summer season, but everything is at a standstill.

Camping reservations, concerts, and group tours have been cancelled or postponed as people continue to stay home to minimize transmission of COVID-19.

Since there are no field trips, Mathieson decided to host ‘virtual field trips’, so people, especially students, can still learn in an interactive way even if they’re not there in person.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve started seeds, we’ve baked bread, I tended a wood stove and talked about a structure here onsite called ‘The Summer Kitchen’. We’ve looked at apple trees, we’ve looked inside developing eggs and have now appreciated the newly born chicks,” he said.

“I could do a year of videos and not run out of things to talk about. There’s always something to do, always a little chore, there’s always an interesting project… there are all sorts of things and we have lots more yet to do.”

But no field trips, tours, and camping reservations mean no revenue for the 12-acre property.

“We are a place that relies heavily on visitation, especially from tourists. And the truth is, we’re not going to see any international visitors this year. That’s just realistically not going to happen, so we’re worried,” he said.

“We have a restaurant, a campground, a gift shop, and people pay to see the site but all of that is gone. We also don’t get any operating money from the government so we’re entirely self-sufficient. So when your revenue goes to zero but the bills keep coming in for things like power and internet, we have to find ways to make that money. So we’re trying to sell season’s passes and we’re working on other things that we can do at a distance that people will hopefully send us some money for.”

Mathieson said people can buy season’s passes and even if they don’t make it out to the site this year, he said they’ll honour the pass for the next season.

“What it does is it helps us keep going and keep the place running.”

He added the feedback to the virtual field trips has been overwhelmingly encouraging, and he said it makes him want to continue.

“My son’s school put out a resource list and we were included on it. That’s a real honour for me, that our school district thought we’re something worth encouraging families to look at.”

Mathieson’s virtual field trips are at 10:00 a.m. daily. You can find the videos here.

For more information on how to donate to the Grist Mill and Gardens, visit their website.

READ: Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen holds meeting online

READ: How Keremeos residents can access health care during COVID-19 crisis


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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