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Back to the basics
W 092211 OLD FREEMAN FARM 02
Benji Anderson rides a 1060 John Deere tractor as a view from the barn loft reveals a pecan tree-lined entry road to the Old Freeman Family Farm as the family gears up for opening their gates to the public. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

A Screven County family hopes a centennial farm that already has provided a lifetime of memories can drum up a few more this fall.
    In an effort to extend traditional farm-life experiences to a generation of people unfamiliar with an agrarian lifestyle, brothers Benji and Garrett Anderson, along with father, Danny, and mother, Becky, have transformed much of their 150-acre farm into a family attraction open to visitors every weekend through Thanksgiving.
    “Everyone likes to come to a farm,” said Garrett Anderson. “There are neat things to do. You can go back in time to when water was pumped by a windmill, tractors were cranked by hand, and a kid’s favorite place to play was a hay loft.”
    “We want to educate the public about farming, and how it used to be,” said Benji Anderson. “There is a lot of history here. We want to do something that will allow families come out and have a good time.”
    For more than a century at the Andersons’ Old Freeman Family Farm, agriculture has reigned. The men, women and children calling the rural plain home, have, for five generations, tended its grounds in hopes of reaping a life-sustaining bounty.
    Since its founding in 1893, the rustic setting, seemingly unscathed by time, has remained home to sprawling fields of cotton, corn and pecan trees that stretch high into the Georgia sky.
    The Cooperville farm, located centrally between Sylvania and Statesboro — just a short drive from each — is a throwback to an earlier age. The locale allows its visitors to hark back to a time when farm experiences were a norm for persons living in the agricultural hub of Southeast Georgia.
    “I rode a tractor with my dad in a field from when I was 3 years old until I was old enough to drive a tractor,” said Garrett Anderson. “I want my children to be able to have the same experiences.  But right now, it isn’t like that.”
    “Many parents that have had experiences on a farm and would like their own children to experience the same things, may not have a place to take the kids,” he said. “We want to provide them with that experience. Parents can show their children what they used to do as kids.”
    According to the brothers, visitors to the Anderson/Freeman Farm will not be in short supply of activities.
    “We feature a five-acre corn maze, will have a zip-line going through the pecan trees and have old, farm trucks leading a two and a half-mile long hay ride around the property,” said Benji Anderson. “We will have slides, tire swings and a lot of stuff for kids to play on, as well as places for parents to relax.”
    The farm also will provide games (horseshoes and corn toss), a cotton jump (a trailer filled with the crop for children to play in) and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch," he said.
    Scattered throughout the property is a stable of animals that rivals even “Old McDonalds’ ” group.
    Patrons can view, pet, and, in some cases, feed a variety of livestock. Chickens, pigs, rabbits and calves all call the farm home.
    To ensure the destination is an accurate representation of traditional farm-life, the Andersons reconstructed buildings that once stood at the site.
    The family erected a new barn, boiler-shed and commissary.
    The barn houses the petting zoo and its loft can be rented for birthdays or weddings, said Garrett Anderson. The boiler will be used to produce cane syrup once the crop is ready in late October.
    At the commissary, items produced on the farm (honey, syrup, lye soap and more), as well as candy and souvenir items, are sold.
    The Andersons say the farm also is available to host field trips for area school children.
    “We want to educate people about where their food comes from,” said Benji Anderson. “It is something that is a totally different experience for some people.”
    “We are going to use the assets we have — peanuts, cane, pumpkins, livestock, etc. — to set up stations where students can learn about making the products they see in stores,” he said. “We want to provide people with a chance to see livestock and see the processes in growing and providing food.”
    Several trips have been schedule thus far, he said.
    A September 24 opening of the attraction was the culmination of a year-long effort by the farm owners.
    “We wanted to get back to our roots, and use the farm more,” said Garrett Anderson, who currently works for the Screven County Forestry Commission. Brother, Benji works for the Bulloch County  Forestry Commission.
    “We have known that we wanted to share and use the farm to build an agricultural education for folks for a while, he said. “We just never really had the time or capital to do it, until this year.”
    The brothers say they plan to expand the farm, adding buildings and events throughout the year if the fall proves a success.
    The farm is open to the public every weekend through November 20. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Sundays.
    Admission is $10 for individuals 3-64 years old. Children less than 2 years old enter for free. Seniors and persons with military, law enforcement or medical IDs must pay $8. For more information, visit the Old Freeman Family Farm web site at www.andersonfreemanfarm.com.
    
    Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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