“We didn’t know what to expect, this being our first time out, but in every way the day surpassed our goals and aspirations,” said Paula Duggan, Lead Coordinator of Our Communities of Northwest Stokes.
The first annual FarmFest, put on by Our Communities volunteers proved to be much more than just a festival, but a stroll back in time. The event paid homage to northern Stokes rich history of family farms and agriculture heritage with rows of vintage tractors, quilt displays, crafts, food, a farmers market and an abundance of friendly faces. Local bands played on a main stage throughout the afternoon providing a musical flavor unique to Stokes County.
“It was a real celebration with a great turnout. We raised more than we needed to proceed with the next steps on the school project. We also got to show and remember some of what makes this such a special place. We’ve had wonderful feedback from people who came. Everybody wants to come again,” Duggan said.
The money raised from FarmFest will go into Our Communities of NW Stokes, a nonprofit planning and development initiative focused on projects in the northern part of the county.
After the closing of Francisco Elementary in July of last year, the organization has worked tirelessly to develop a sustainable plan for the school’s reuse. Their accomplishments already include a walking trail, repairing and cleaning the playground equipment, landscaping the lawns and ball fields, building an information kiosk at the gate entrance and a Little Free Library with a book-sharing program. The group has also cleaned out and painted an agriculture building on the property.
“Volunteers have accomplished so much in the past few months,” Duggan said. “We want people to know that this is truly a local grassroots effort. The day after the commissioners gave us permission to use the grounds and the ag building, people went to work. In this one little community, people have been working throughout the summer and early fall, logging thousands of volunteer hours, cleaning and painting.”
Duggan said the goal for the school facilities is to refurbish the basketball courts, the gymnasium, the cafeteria and the classrooms.
“We envision a place for little league, scouts and other organizations, child and senior care, health/wellness activities, arts programming, a computer lab and access to the Internet. We would also like for this community center to be self-sustaining and offer economic development opportunities.”
On Saturday, FarmFest had the support of large companies, but a majority of the sponsorship was provided through local businesses including their two gold sponsors: TARHEEL Mobile RV Service and Luna’s Trail Farm and Event Center.
Duggan said others businesses included were Dunkley’s Automotive, On the Move Personal Training, Sylvia’s Cleaning Service, and Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tour, Cooke Rentals, Duke Energy, Remembering Lloyd & Rachel Collins, Surry Telephone Membership Corporation, and Surry-Yadkin EMC.
Jane Bowman, a volunteer with Our Communities of NW Stokes, believes Saturday’s event promoted the history of growing tobacco and farm life, but also tapped into the nostalgia of days gone by that many remember from years ago.
“There is beautiful countryside in our communities of northwest Stokes County. Have you seen the sky on a crisp fall day from the middle of a gently sloping hayfield in Francisco? The round hay bales stand nearby like watchmen. You take a deep breath of the aromatic fields and realize that despite the six o’clock news reports, there is still a place of quiet and beauty where one can find salve for the soul.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.