The Secret Path to the Dairy Barn

The road to the dairy barn is close to the house and the dairy barn is quite easy to find.  So what’s the secret?  Life is full of paths we must follow. Some trails wind around for a bit, while others take years to find since timing is key and in the end most paths lead to a place of great fulfillment.  Sometimes while on a path, one hasn’t a clue they are even on an important venture that will affect their lives.  Some aren’t aware of which turns should be taken and a gentle nudge is all it that is needed to keep them going.  Although the dairy barn is very close by, it has become quite clear now that it has a path that must be followed.  But it remains a secret path…
Two men, one that just happens to be following in the other’s footsteps, recently made a lengthy 500 mile road trip together down to Georgia;  Rome, Georgia to be exact.  The father and son duo had a conference to attend and it was the father who would be giving the keynote address to a large group of attendees.  Most folks turn on a radio, while the other reads a magazine, or both might chit chat about newsworthy events, but not these two.  The future of Heritage Farm dominated their keen minds and the 7 ½ hour trip produced a detailed five page to-do list regarding improvements for the farm.  So engrossed in their discussions they later realized the radio wasn’t turned on one time.  One such large project that made for good conversation was the dairy barn.  Such a vast structure… and it was just sitting there with nothing much to do but give cover for collections of antiques and house those who attended the artisan classes.  Something seemed unfitting.  Both men agreed that the dairy barn is unfulfilled and underused.      

The Appalachian Regional Commission hosts a fall conference each year and Mike Perry was given the honor to share his views regarding the importance of installing pride in today’s youth. He also spoke of his own educational experiences in West Virginia. The underlying theme of the Heritage Farm was always “learn from the past, appreciate today, and dream for the future” which coincides perfectly with Mike’s topic.  Perry along with his wife Henriella, were honored by being the 2010 recipients of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s LDD Humanitarian Award, the third such award ever given with Bob Evans being the first.  In preparation for the talk, the organizer questioned him if he was using the popular Power Point, a program that shows visual aids while the speaker offers explanations.  A little befuddled, Mike declined and told them he would be speaking ‘off the cuff” for the duration of 40 minutes.  He was very surprised at the length allotted for his speech and jokingly reminded everyone that ‘his preacher doesn’t even get that much time’ nor did the Governor of Georgia, who spoke for about ten minutes prior to Mike.   

All went well and afterwards a meet and greet occurred.  The pair was approached by a woman who urgently told them they would be remiss if a visit to a local college with the largest campus (in terms of acreage) in the U.S. was not made.  Isn’t Cal Poly Tech with 9700 acres the largest? Nope, not even close, Berry College owns 26,000 acres!  (In case you wanted to know, the second largest campus, is U.S. Air Force Academy with 18,000 acres). Berry College?  The father and son listened politely keeping their mind’s open hoping the line of conversation would lead them to a worthy connection and it certainly did! 

The college had once been a tiny school. A little cabin surrounded by woods, was where Martha Berry as a youngster had met some uneducated children who lacked in adequate food and clothing.  Martha Berry was the daughter of a wealthy cotton plantation owner and could not bear to see such suffering so she began a school.  Given the gift of determination and strong tenacity she was able to solicit generous funding throughout her life to grow this amazing campus.   She even secured financial donations from Henry Ford by turning a few peanuts into several bags, but that is a whole other story you can learn for yourself.  The Appalachian roots of this school intrigued the Perry’s so they ventured onto a new path that lead them to tour the campus of this amazing college.  What did they see?  One of the most memorable visions where the structures that the students themselves had built to grow their campus.  Berry College was a prime example of young people who had shown pride in their Appalachian culture.  How fitting that Mike just finished speaking about this very subject!

Another gentle suggestion was given nudging them in a slightly different direction though still on campus leading them down the path towards the amazing WinShape Center.  Acres of pristine settings surrounded them from all angles but in front a group of white washed buildings with red tiled roofs greeted them.  What is WinShape, why is it here on this campus and why should they tour the area?  All of these penetrating questions darted back and forth in their minds.  They would soon learn that a man who had visited their beloved Heritage Farm, enjoyed a celebration dinner in Heritage Hall and who had walked the very grounds of Heritage Village is the son of the founder of this spectacular complex - Dan Cathy, son of Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A.  When Chick-fil-A opened a new store near the local mall, the opening celebration dinner was held at Heritage Farm.
While the Perry’s walked around, they found the place to be empty.  There was not a soul to be seen except for one student. It seemed their timing was off.  Thankfully the student was helpful and found someone to give them a tour.  Bob, the Director of the WinShape Centre, was still working and offered to show Mike and Audy the grounds of this great project.  Perhaps the timing was just perfect after all and this is exactly where they should be, doing what is needed in order to prepare  them for their next path, only they certainly were not thinking of paths then.  The buildings and grounds were breathtaking, but one humongous white structure with several pointed roof tops dominated the campus. What could it be?  Bob explained that the Normandy inspired complex is where the WinShape marriage retreats were held.  (WinShape also houses long term foster children, and summer camps for almost 2000 kids).  But it was his simple description about the building put the entire trip into focus.  For 70 years it was one of the top leading dairies in Georgia.  It was an old dairy barn!
The real road to the Heritage Farm dairy barn is quite short but the path that will elevate it to new life is waiting to be found, still winding around and changing directions but ideas are being formed and plans will be developed.  But, until something has been decided, there will continue to be a secret path to the dairy barn!

(Be sure to click on the links to learn more about these wonderful institutions and the good people who founded them!)



Wonderful photos. I especially love the second photo it reminds me of the English villages set ups ! Hubby and I will visit your beautiful retreat one day soon ! I told him about it and he looks great we will have to go one day! Have a great day .

Verde Farm said...

What a neat story. It is so funny how life intersects with exactly what we need. Definitely a journey.

Angela said...

Sounds like the things they learned on their trip will lead to bigger things! Can't wait to find out what is decided to do with the Dairy Barn.

Have a Great Week!