A Primitive Peek Inside Eustace Conway's Turtle Island Preserve

Summertime is the season of outdoor living. In fact, it may be the only season where people prefer the outdoors more than the indoors—but that’s not the case for Eustace Conway. In his world, every season, and nearly every day, is spent outside; it is his everyday preference; the outdoors is his home, and has been ever since he turned the ripe age of 17. Calling him a modern-day John Muir would be an accurate reflection of his luminous life portrait and overall knowledge and philanthropy. Two members from the FRS Asheville team were lucky enough to meet Conway in July and experience a primitive peek into his way of life at the Turtle Island Preserve—or as he likes to call it, his “nonprofit heritage farm”.

"There is no way that you can have a decent life as a man if you aren’t awake and aware every moment. Show up for your own life. Don’t pass your days in a stupor, content to swallow whatever watery ideas modern society may bottle feed you through the media, satisfied to slumber through life in an instant gratification sugar coma. The most extraordinary gift you’ve been given is your own humanity, which is about consciousness. So honor that consciousness.” ~ Eustace Conway

Operations Manager and Warehouse Manager, Laura Oliver and Dino Zourzoukis, have been longtime fans of Eustace Conway and took this visit as an opportunity not only to give but also to gain. In just one day, Laura and Dino gained tremendous insight on what we as humans can learn by taking a step back in time and living in harmony with nature. While primitive living indeed demands more of one’s time and physical energy, there is an irrefutable spiritual tranquility that comes from living a simpler way of life.

¨Meeting Eustace Conway was a real treat. He honestly is one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. I have seldom enjoyed a conversation more in my life.¨ - Laura Oliver

Free of digital technology, the camp nurtures people’s child-like spirit and offers campers, old and young, a safe place to explore, discover, create and enliven their senses. It is a place of learning and doing; think DIY, for everything. Or, if you’ve ever heard of the website and global community Workaway, Turtle Island Preserve runs in a similar fashion: sustainability and meaningful exchange are their foremost pillars. It is no surprise, then, that they have an extremely high camper return rate. And many of the campers continue to attend various itineraries and events throughout their adulthood—some even become counselors! One such camper alumni is Raleigh Avery of Avery Knife Works who learned his trade at Turtle Island Preserve and who now teaches and shares what he has learned with other campers.

The Turtle Island Preserve was born of a similar concept held by Conway’s grandparents; one in which additionally left a life-empowering imprint on Eustace’s developing mind and spirit, and that was Camp Sequoyah. Though its physical presence no longer exists, Camp Sequoyah lives on in the very foundation of Eustace’s camp and non-profit, which welcomes both children and adults and “guides them through experiences with the natural world to enhance their appreciation and respect for life.” With a diverse range of experiential activities and workshops, campers not only leave with several new skills and friends, but also a greater understanding (and appreciation) of nature and our irrevocable connection to it.

One of the most intriguing observations Dino and Laura witnessed was how fluidly they were able to operate and run a kitchen to feed, at times, up to 75 campers and staff. Enter kitchen manager and chef: Kaleb Wallace. Watching him and his staff gracefully dance through the motions in their primitive setting was nothing short of fascinating. They cooked over an open fire or with wood-fired ovens, using as much locally grown or sourced produce and ingredients as possible. The slogan Eustace and the camp live by: "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do or DO WITHOUT" seemed all the more fitting by the end of the day.      

¨Caleb & his staff produced a wonderful meal for the campers & staff & we were lucky enough to be able to join them. They made amazing dishes out of locally sourced, in season produce & items. The wood cook stoves brought back memories for me – as my Great-Grandmother had one when I was a small child. Our restaurant industry could learn a lot from Turtle Island & Caleb (& his staff) – after all the history of cooking is based on food & fire!” - Laura Oliver

To show their support of this magical sanctuary and their gratitude for such an eye-opening experience, FRS Asheville donated an assortment of cookware: cast iron and Browne Foodservice aluminum pots and pans as well as Winco knives and storage containers. Kaleb and the rest of the Turtle Island Preserve staff were very grateful for FRS’s contribution and Eustace made it clear to Laura and Dino that they and anyone else on the FRS crew were welcome back for a future visit. There is no doubt that Laura and Dino will return again as well as other members of the FRS crew. Thank you Eustace and thank you staff of Turtle Island Preserve!

¨Visiting Turtle Island Preserve reminded me of an experience I had as a child. When I was 6 years old we visited the village in Greece where my Mother & Father were from. There was no running water & my brother & I had to go to the well to get water for simple things such as cooking & bathing. We often take modern conveniences for granted. We should all be thankful for what we have & concentrate less on what we do not. We should not forget the craftsmanship of building things by hand. I really want to go back to visit Eustace & all the people at Turtle Island soon. It is a beautiful & serene place.¨ - Dino Zourzoukis

As a local partner for foodservice and restaurant supply in Western North Carolina and Tennessee, you can trust FRS Asheville to deliver quality service and attention to detail. Not located in the Asheville area? FRS is a regional provider in the Carolinas with other locations in South Carolina - Charleston, Columbia and Florence.