Get a feel for country living at the Farmland Preservation Festival
Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.
Visitors to the Farmland Preservation Festival taking place Saturday between McIntosh and Micanopy can get a feel and taste of country living.
If you go
What: Farmland Preservation Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 27; tractor parade 11 a.m.; auction noon
Where: Harvest Village, 22050 N. US 441, between McIntosh and Micanopy
Cost: Free admission; free parking east side of highway
Freddie Wood, a native of Evinston in Alachua County, is a regular vendor at the farmer's market at the Harvest Village in Marion County, which is the site of the festival. Wood will have produce and vegetables for sale, and the sixth annual event will include a variety of other vendors as well as an antique tractor parade put on by the North Florida Antique Tractor Club at 11 a.m.
Featured during the day will be a cracker cowboy camp, arts and crafts, local food and demonstrations by the Citra Paso Fino Drill Team. Providing musical entertainment will be D.L. Schwartz, Leah Oxendine and Maygan Flood, Alan Height, James Coker, Pete Peterman, and Kim and Friend.
At noon, the Packing House Auction Company will conduct a live auction, with the proceeds shared by the Town and Country 4H Club and the Farmland Preservation Festival Committee to cover costs of the event, as well as other nonprofits, according to committee chairman Jerome Feaster.
Organizers also hope to spotlight protecting rural and agricultural land and the lifestyle it fosters. The festival is an educational program of the nonprofit Marion County Citizens' Coalition and is supported by the Save Our Rural Area group.
"The roots of the festival started about seven years ago when it looked like some commercial and residential development might be headed here," said Feaster, 62, of Shiloh. "This area is designated for farm use, and it gives some protection against development. The festival is to bring land preservation to the attention of the public."
According to the Marion County Board of County Commissioners website, as of October 2009 just over 1,000 acres in the northwest quadrant of the county, including areas along N. U.S. 441 around McIntosh, were protected under the county's Farmland Preservation Program. The site explains that a conservation easement can be applied for by owner of land parcels over 30 acres. The property can then be "retained forever in its existing natural or agricultural state."
The Harvest Village includes several buildings, the largest being the wooden Reddick train depot that was moved there in the 1970s. In the depot, visitors will find antique, photographic and arts and crafts shops, along with the Jersey Creamery Ice Cream Shop operated by village manager Karen DeConna.
"My cows started the ice cream shop with all their milk," DeConna said.
The village also includes Ray's Relics, a shop modeled after an early service station and specializing in items related to antique automobiles and motorcycles, the auction house and a restaurant, and is the site of a farmer's market that takes place each Friday from 2 p.m. to dusk.
Crystal and Eric Petteway have been holding auctions the first and third Friday of each month, at 6:30 p.m., at the Packing House Auction Company since last September.
"We have a lot of fun. You never know what will come up for auction," Eric Petteway said.
One of the best preserved local landmarks is the nearby 130-year-old Wood and Swink general store and post office in Evinston, where locals still meet and visit. The post office is touted as the "oldest continuously operating post office in Florida."
"My dad, Fred Wood, was postmaster at the Wood and Swink store," Freddie Wood, 76, said.
His wife, Wilma "Sue" Wood, was postmaster at the store from about 1979 to 2009. Now, the couple grow vegetables on a few acres on the north shore of Orange Lake and sell them at the farmer's market and festival. They expect to bring yellow squash, onions, collard greens and kale to Saturday's event.
"I love working out here on the farm. It's a lot less stress," Wilma Wood said as she checked cabbage plantings on a recent morning.
The couple's son, Fred Wood, 47, now operates the Wood and Swink store. He summed up preserving the rural lifestyle of the area and the importance of the festival by saying, "It's like Mayberry, but smaller. You don't find places like this anymore."