When I was a child there was a special place at our Crawford grandparents’ house we loved to visit — the barn.
Situated not far from the house and behind the car shed, the barn loft was our favorite place to hide. Taking one step into the barn and to the immediate left were wooden steps that took kids and adults to the loft.
The loft was also where the hay bales were kept for cow feed and where we might see the evidence of other living creatures visiting there. We still loved the loft. I can still smell the scent of the hay.
The first floor of the barn was where Grandpa milked the cows and where his grandchildren would often get squirted with milk if you happened by during the milking process.
Most country folks had barns back in the day and as you know were absolutely nothing like barns today.
Old barns are being transformed into wedding venues and entertainment venues. Couples are exchanging vows and pledging their lives to one another inside the place where cows once roamed and where hay was kept.
I love it.
A few weeks ago, our niece Rebekah and Tom got married just a few steps outside of a large barn at Freewood Farms in Myrtle Beach.
After the vows were said, the wedding guests walked into the large barn for the wedding reception complete with a taco bar, DJ, dancing and plenty of fun – in an old barn that once meant the world to farmers.
The Friday afternoon before the wedding I was at the barn during the decorating process. The best part of that afternoon — besides anticipating the next day — was meeting O’Neal Smalls, president and chair of the Freewoods Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization. Who knew?
Freewoods Farms, as Smalls shared with me during a lengthy conversation, is a 40-acre living farm museum showing life on a small African American family farm between 1865-1900.
The small family farm structure is the only African-American historical living farm museum in the United States. The Farm is devoted to recognizing and perpetuating the contributions of African-American farmers.
The farm contains a main farmhouse, a blacksmith shed, a smokehouse, livestock and tobacco storage.
Workers, which today includes a lot of volunteers, use mules and plows to harvest crops by hand and cook over a wood-fire and make soaps and syrup.
Produce and other goods are for sale at the location during harvesting time.
Freewoods Farm which is located in the Burgess community of Myrtle Beach, provides education, documentation and preservation of the activities and practices of these farms, says FreewoodsFarm.com.
Tours are available at the farm and Smalls is often on the property to lead the tours. Talking with him that Friday brought me joy. To know that after the slaves were freed this was a place many came to farm the land and make a living. It’s a place where history lives.
I’ve been to other weddings and parties at barn venues, but I have to tell you this is my favorite – hearing the history of how the land became life sustaining for so many will always have a special place in my heart – and I rejoice with Rebekah and Tom’s new life.
To learn more about the farm or to make a donation to the nonprofit, visit FreewoodsFarms.com. You’ll be glad you did. By the way, Smalls came back for the wedding.