Just south of Atlanta in McDonough, Georgia, is a gem called Southern Belle Farms.
Several years ago, when my granddaughter came for her regular summer visit, my friend Deborah and I decided to take her toddler grandson, Whit, and Avery down to pick berries.
The 330-acre farm was open to the public to pick blackberries, strawberries, peaches and blueberries. Deborah and I thought it was a great idea to make this a day trip to teach these city kids a bit about farm life. So, off we went on a hot June day.
Whit ate more blackberries than he picked and was stained red from head to toe. Avery, who was then 8, just loved it all.
Every summer since, we gather the two of them to go visit the rolling hills, pet the animals and have a picnic in the summer sun. We look forward to trading the skyscrapers of the city for the tall silos beside the red roof barns.
Southern Belle Farms has been owned by the Carter family since 1938.
It was a dairy farm until the economy changed and the Carter family started growing berries. Row after row of beautiful fresh produce for the public to pick. When the green of summer turns to fall so does the farm.
Corn mazes, hayrides, campfires and pumpkins attract hordes of families and yellow buses filled with children.
This year all the berries and peaches ripened at the same time. Deborah and I were already dreaming of cooking pies and cobblers. Whit was still eating blackberries by the dozen.
We stayed longer than other times and went to visit Belle, the big Jersey cow, and also visit the new “Country Market” that had been erected since the previous June.
The market was quite impressive with its rocking chair filled porch and stocked shelves of ripe peaches and preserves. Beams of wood and beams of smiling faces filled the store.
As impressive as it was and as wonderful as it all is, there is a story or two that makes you think not only about how mother nature works but how a bountiful God controls it.
Jake Carter is a young man that took over the day to day operation of the farm after graduating from Georgia several years ago. A Christian man that looks to God for guidance as he takes on this daily responsibility.
Crops only produce what God and mother nature allow. As we all know, you can have good berries or none depending on how the raindrops fall.
In June 2009 the blackberries were growing wonderfully well. Then suddenly, they became unhealthy. Not understanding why, Jake walked among the rows and as he watched them wither, he prayed.
He saw trash in one of the rows. As he walked toward a shiny object, he realized it was a silver Mylar balloon that had landed in the middle of a row.
He picked it up and noticed a ribbon with a note attached to it laminated in plastic. The balloon had traveled from Talladega, Alabama, to McDonough, Georgia, to land in the blackberry row with this message:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jake had been thinking about extending the operation to include a store for years. He had wrestled with this hard decision for so long he finally gave himself a time line: June 2015.
Finally, the day came and he and his family were to have a meeting with a contractor at 9:30 a.m. He awoke that morning and prayed about the decision, still unsure and wavering.
It had been a busy morning. About 15 minutes before the meeting, he decided to take the little farm buggy around to check on things.
When he neared the blackberries a young woman ran out of one of the rows.
“Can you help me?” She looked alarmed. “I am here with my mom and she is not well!”
Jake jumped off the buggy and ran to the elderly woman. The woman was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis and indeed was not doing well. Jake was getting ready to lift her to his buggy, when she did a most unusual thing.
Jake Carter’s grandmother had died with rheumatoid arthritis. The woman instantly reminded him of his own beloved grandmother. Just as he was thinking that, the elderly woman looked into his eyes and touched his heart with her crippled hand.
“I will pray for you to prosper. God is with you and He has plans for you.”
Chills ran over Jake and he realized that as she continued to speak the more she sounded as if she was indeed his departed grandmother.
He took them safely to their car, and finally made it to the meeting. He never saw or heard from the mother and daughter again.
Jake Carter built the market with not an ounce of fear in his heart.
I had thought many times about interviewing Jake to write a story about the farm, but never got around to call. I prayed about my article for this week and as I walked out of the gym this morning, a title came to me out of the blue.
Angels among the blackberries. I called Jake. It seems that Jake had asked God on this beautiful July day to use his farm for the glory of God.
You see God works in wonderful, crazy, ways. Ways we cannot understand, ways we cannot see, ways to make us have better lives and make us better believers. God sees potential and prosperity in all of his children if we only listen to His whispers and believe that He can also send angels to walk among the blackberries.