Beulah Land Farms in Abbeville County is a place where dreams cometrue--particularly for members of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church. Fortwenty-five years, church members have searched for land, collected money,gathered resources, and prayed that they would someday find the perfect spot toestablish Beulah Land Farms. The plan started coming together when they locatedand purchased 2,600 acres in Abbeville County to establish a retreat for churchmembers and eventually a summer camp for inner-city children. With NRCStechnical assistance and an abundance of dedication, faith, and commitment fromchurch members and volunteers, Beulah Land Farms is finally becoming a reality.
Farm Manager Dr. Wesley Godfrey is no stranger to farming. A graduate ofTuskegee University (biology/pre-veterinary medicine) and the University ofMichigan (urban and regional planning), Godfrey has over 30 years of farmingexperience. While at Tuskegee, he completed a work-study project at the TuskegeeUniversity School of Agriculture where they grew produce and sold the goods inchurch baskets to the needy. "We sold food baskets for $4 filled with foodessentials worth at least $25 to those who desperately needed assistance,"he remembers. "That was the hook for me—knowing that I was making adifference in the health and well being of those who needed our help," heconfided. Thus, Godfrey was inspired by his college experience and still
has a passion for reaching out to those in need. He lives in Louisiana, butsince the acquisition of Beulah Land Farms spends more time in South Carolinathan in his home state. He contacted the NRCS Abbeville Field Office anddeveloped a close working relationship with the staff.
NRCS District Conservationist Frank Love and Soil Conservationist Donna Rayhave worked with Beulah Land Farms staff to plan two catfish ponds, inventorypastureland for a prescribed grazing system, plan for a swine waste managementfacility, and develop a forest stewardship plan. The farm consists of 888 acresto be used for hay, cattle, goats, sheep, and horse production, ten acres ofcatfish farms, and the majority of the remaining acreage used for timber andfood production. Love spoke highly of the volunteers and church members and oftheir commitment to conservation and wise use of natural resources. "It isreally exciting to work with this group of dedicated individuals who have such adiversity and abundance of resources, equipment, knowledge, and are committed tocaring for those in need as well as caring for the land," he commented.Godfrey and his staff have shipped most of their livestock in from MichiganState University (except the goats which came from Louisiana).
The church members have a vision for the farm that includes a learning centerwhere inner-city children and missionaries from across the country canexperience rural life on the farm. "We hope to expose them to agri-businessand farm life in a hands-on method which they couldn’t experience growing upin
the city," explained Godfrey. He also hopes to include NRCSconservationists in the education program to teach participants aboutconservation and good land stewardship.
Ray said that she too has enjoyed working at Beulah Land Farms and callsGodfrey and his fellow church members model conservationists. "It’s nottoo often that you have the privilege of working with so many people that areintently focused on a similar goal and who have the resources and willpower toattain those goals," she remarked. Godfrey thanked Ray and Love for theirtechnical guidance and support by saying, "We wanted to avoid potentialproblems instead of having to go back and correct them later—and this is whereNRCS has been crucial to our development." The success of Beulah Land Farmsis truly a testament of faith, hard work, and perseverance. "This is ajoint effort that could not have been realized without the assistance of eachand every individual who offered their time and assistance," said Godfrey.With continued support and dedication from church members, the hope that BeulahLand Farms will make a difference in the lives of the needy and in the lifeexperiences of children and missionaries will soon become a reality.