AmericanFarm.com

Farm mixes mission with fun in egg drop

By JANE W. GRAHAM
AFP Correspondent

PULASKI, Va. (April 25, 2017) — Thousands of bright-colored plastic candy-filled Easter eggs filled the sky and then filled the pasture at Thornspring Pasture Farm the Friday before Easter, an event that’s part agritourism for the farm and part mission for the farm family’s faith.
As eggs streamed from the helicopter excited children pressed against the farm gate to the field.
For safety’s sake, they were not allowed in the field to hunt eggs until the aircraft had cleared the area.
The children were grouped by age and identified with colored wrist bands to give everyone a fair chance at filling their Easter baskets and buckets.
Parents were not allowed inside the fence but met their children at a gate at the end of the field.
The helicopter made three separate passes over the field, replenishing eggs on the ground for each age group.
The event was delayed first for weather and then due to a rush of traffic when the weather cleared.
The storm and rain moved through causing some folks to leave. Once the storm passed, the parking area filled with incoming vehicles loaded with families.
This caused another nearly 30-minute delay as folks bought tickets and crossed a foot bridge over the branch that runs through the farm.
When there was some doubt that the event would be held, farm owner Mike Jones announced over the loudspeaker it would go on as planned.
“I came to drop eggs and I am going to drop eggs,” he told the crowd helicopter pilot Bill Bryant had told him.
This is the third year the farm has held the egg drop, Jones said.
He said about 1,700 people came to the farm for this year’s egg drop.
It’s just one of several agritourism and educational events the Jones family has on the farm where beef and hogs are raised.
Mike said these activities are “sort of a mission.”
The Christian farm family strives to introduce their visitors to their faith and values as well as to farm life.
He said their mission is independent of any church group. They do, however, get support for the mission work from several denominations.
One of Mike’s favorite events is a drama put on in the weeks before Halloween.
It is called “The Blood Trail,” he said.
Some folks think at first it is a ghostly trip. They soon find something different.
Nine scenes from the kinds of experiences so many people in the world deal with are depicted in nine stops on the trail which ends at a huge cross.
Mike said the actors deal with such things as a divorce, suicide, kidnapping and other and other terrible topics. He said some people have told him their lives changed by seeing the drama.
As many as 70 people from different churches are the actors in this drama, he stated.
He said the annual pumpkin patch and corn maze are the biggest event of the year.
They started with the pumpkin patch and their two nieces, ages two and four at the time, gave them the idea to try the corn maze. From there it has grown. He said they try to add at least three new attractions every year.
A large selection of fun activities is available in the area of the farm devoted to agritourism.
“Kid-friendly” may well be the best way to describe it.
Most of the children were having so much fun they didn’t realize they were waiting for the egg hunt.
Swings, slides, face painting, scavenger hunt based on Bible verses, live animals and more kept kids and parents busy.
The farm theme was apparent in the two see-saws.
One had western saddles for seats and the other metal seats from farm machinery dating to the early to mid-20th century.
Mike Jones is a member of a building family who said he decided early in life that he liked farming better than construction.
He said his father sat him and his brother down at the dining room table where he was paying bills one night and gave them a choice.
Their dad said he would give each boy — Mike was 10 at the time — $1,000 to invest or he would buy each a car and pay the insurance when the time came. He gave them a week to think about his offer.
Both boys took the money and invested it in cattle. Mike bought baby calves and raised them on a bottle.
As he earned money from their sale he was able to buy cows, thus starting his herd.
He ran his cattle on this father’s land until 1988 when he and wife Tina bought their farm.
They now have both spring and fall calving herds and their beef and hogs are pasture-based.
The farm’s outreach is trending to helping groups through educational and fundraising events.
A number of teachers bring school buses loaded with children for a day at the farm.
They help the Pulaski County High School FFA by having a pig wrestling day.
This raises money for college scholarships.
Another activity is a Vintage Fair where crafters sell antique building items they have rescued and reworked for other purposes.
Some of their events benefit Joy Ranch in Carroll County, Va., a Christian children’s home that Mike said provides children in need with a safe haven.
While this is meant to be a temporary home, for some it is the place they grow to be adults.
A tractor parade is one of the events to aid the home.
Mike said he and Tina have lots of help, he said.
He expressed his gratitude to his brother Steve and to Tina’s best friend Tonya Queensberry, her husband David and their daughter Amanda for their help and support.