Farm History and Description
The first piece of the farm our family has named Christian Way Farm was purchased in the early 1920's by Guy Corley with money he earned from his World War I bonus. Over the years he bought adjacent farms that became available. In total he purchased over 350 acres, which border Linville and Coal Creek Roads, in north Christian county. Guy raised row crops (corn, tobacco and wheat) and was known by people of this area for his hard work as he covered the farm with wooden fences to enclose sheep, cattle, pigs and various kinds of fowl. His son Edwin Corley grew up learning farming as a way of life. He left home to serve in the military and pursue an education. When Edwin came home he raised his family of six children, including Milton, on a farm close to his father's.
Milton and his siblings all left home for school and chose careers away from the family farm. Milton continued in farming earning a degree at Western Kentucky University and managing Jackson's Orchard in Bowling Green for many years. The desire to go home and farm did not go away. But it had taken on a new approach. His years of experience at Jackson's Orchard opened his eyes to the desire of people to "get away from it all" by enjoying an afternoon on the farm. Milton and his wife, Janie, began to dream about building a home on the family farm and developing such a place for people to have that experience in Hopkinsville.
Milton came home and talked with his father. The farm had not been cropped in close to ten years. And none of the siblings were interested in farming. Nothing pleased Edwin more than to know his son was coming home to be the third generation to farm this land. Thus, he deeded the rest of the farm over to Milton. Portions of the farm had grown up from disuse. All the fencing built by Guy Corley had long ago decayed, but the barns were still standing and there was still some equipment available for use.
Family on the TractorJanuary 1998 marked the opening of Christian Way Farm. Milton quit his job at the orchard and traveled from Bowling Green to begin the clean-up process on the farm. He planted his first crop of corn in spring of 1998 and in the fall began planting 250 peach trees. Over the next two years, he cleaned up the home-place and built a house for our family. In August of 1999, our family moved from Bowling Green to the new home on the farm.
That fall, the pumpkin crop was immensely successful. And equally successful were the tours. In less than six weeks we saw two thousand children and adults who took hayrides, picked pumpkins, shelled and cracked corn, fed animals and learned how we raised the pumpkins. We taught the children about the ways farmers have to be innovative in their farming practices. We showed them the tobacco setter that we modified so that we could plant those 4 acres with pumpkin seeds in just a few hours, instead of days of planting the seeds by hand. We talked about the importance of using chemicals in moderation so that the bee population will be available to pollinate the pumpkins. Our success was confirmed the next fall when we learned that children (and adults) remembered and asked about the things we taught them the previous year.
Taking the Farm to the "Next Level"
The first two years of success with a pumpkin patch and harvest tours helped us to realize that the need for a "farm experience" is a certainty in this area. Even though there are still highly agricultural portions of the community, census reports indicate that Hopkinsville-Christian County has now been classified as a developing urban area. Thus there are increasingly more children and adults who do not even have the opportunity to visit farms and many are not being taught about agriculture. Many people have admitted to us that their parents or grandparents were farmers, but they have little contact with farming now. When visitors are on our farm in the fall, we were often asked about opportunities to come to the farm during other times of the year. It's one thing to talk about planting a pumpkin and how it grows, but it's another thing for a child or adult to actually see or help in the process. They are interested, but they are searching for a place nearby to go to experience it.
Our visitors helped plant or harvest (depending on the time of their visit). They all got to ride the wagon to the barn to feed the animals, usually including a bottle for the baby calf. Before leaving they planted seeds in a peat pot to take home and grow their own pumpkin or sunflower in their backyards.
Spring and summer of 2004 we "grew" pizza , 2005 and 2006, we are growing "tacos." Each year, while examining the plants and animals that produced our food items, we tried to teach about the history of that food. The first hamburgers were from the Middle Ages - raw pieces of meat carried underneath the saddle to be eaten in the flattened state when the traveler arrived at his destination. Pizza, we learned, started as flat pieces of dough, often with just olive oil and some spices. The Aztec Indians in Mexico were the first to make tacos, but they used mostly vegetables in the early tacos. The Spanish introduced the animals to provide meat to the Aztecs living in Mexico, so the taco actually is a blend of those two cultures.
Fall 2004 also marked the first of our fall events: Harvest Praise. On October 16, we hosted over 700 people who came to ride to the pumpkin patch, pick pumpkins, and feed the animals. While here they had the opportunity to eat grilled chicken or pork chops, or cook their own hotdog over the fire with the local Boy Scouts. In addition to the smoke from the fire, the air was also filled with the sounds coming from various local Christian music and drama groups. It was definitely a fun family day on the farm.
On October 15, 2005, the second annual Harvest Praise was another fun day with several hundred people visiting on a beautiful fall day. This year the music was by The Wilsons, CityKids, and Bruce and Robin Kennedy. A special prayer tribute was written by Betsi Smith and read on this day to honor our military families.
In the fall of 2005, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved funding for Christian Way Farm from the Agricultural Development funds. This means that during 2006, construction will be underway for a restroom building, expanded sheds on the tour barn and remodeling of the barn for a "Farm Creations Store." Other plans are in the works, so just keep checking the website to see what's next!