A Tour with Manure
Trading Sidewalks for Silos, Attendees Get Horse-y on this Year's Farm-city Tour
Story by Andrew Biscoglia
Photos by Angelina Bellebuono
When you think about going on a tour in Madison, several images will likely immediately flash through your mind: stately columns, perfectly manicured lawns, beautifully restored antiques… you can almost taste the sweet tea and hear the soft southern lilt as a proud homeowner walks you through her favorite part of her flower garden. If the participants in this year’s Farm City Tour had any of this in mind, they were in for a big surprise.
The Farm City Tour was a far cry from anything experienced in the well-attended Madison Tour of Homes. Instead of walking and driving around the historic district, marveling at the architecture of an era that passed long ago, the participants were treated to a bus tour of the countryside in Morgan County. All 60 of them traded in the paved sidewalks and majestic shade trees for mud, muck, and a firsthand look at part of the true lifeblood of Morgan County and its agricultural roots.
Madisonfest partnered with the first annual Morgan County Equifest this year. Appropriately, this year’s Farm City Tour theme was horses. The itinerary included four operating horse farms and Godfrey’s Feed (included because it has been providing horse feed to Morgan County and the surrounding areas for well over 100 years.)
For those of you who don’t know, the huge structure including silos and warehouse space on Jefferson Street is part of Godfrey’s Feed. This facility was the first stop and the only one inside Madison proper. As soon as everyone stepped off of the bus, they were greeted by Whitey Hunt and his son, Weyman. Whitey explained that he was the fifth generation owner of Godfrey’s and planned to pass it on to his son. The family came into ownership of Godfrey’s in a bankruptcy sale on the courthouse steps in the 1870’s. Back then, it was simply a cotton warehouse that also sold “feed and seed.” Although the original warehouse still stands and is still in use, the family has dramatically changed the scope of the operation. Godfrey’s now retails in three different states and works hand-in-hand with the University of Georgia to create customized feed for all types of livestock. The guided tour through the 200-year-old warehouse was both informative and fascinating. Several of the tourists were familiar enough with Godfrey’s to ask specific questions about the feed production process. No one was disappointed.
After leaving the warehouse, it was off to the farm portion of the tour. Tourists were treated to an entire range of actual working equestrian farms in Morgan County – Rhythm and Balance Equestrian Center, Silver Creek Farm, the Rockin’ S Arena and the Southern Cross Ranch. Everyone had an opportunity to meet horses that are valued at a price higher than a modest three-bed, two-bath ranch, as well as horses with a value that is measured less in dollars and more in decade-long relationships.
Upon arriving at Rhythm and Balance, one thing was clear. Shirley Singleton sure knows how to make a horse comfortable. These horses lead a lifestyle that other horses can only dream about. The indoor and outdoor arenas are covered in something called Eurofelt that is actually made from carpet fibers and rubber (to protect the horses’ hooves). Hokan Thorn, the trainer hired from Sweden, shows these horses the type of meticulous care and instruction normally reserved for Olympian athletes. His brief demonstration on his prize-winning warmblood included changing leads in mi- stride, subtle cues from his leg muscles, and the type of poise and grace that left all viewers speechless.
After an experience that made everyone feel as if they were in feudal Europe, Silver Creek Farm reminded all of the participants that they were still in Morgan County. Ruth and Doug Sarrett had always dreamed of living on a horse farm. Several years ago they decided to realize that dream by purchasing a horse. After purchasing the first one, another came, then another, then two more… fourteen horses later they decided that it was time for the horses to begin “earning their keep.” This is how the saddle club came to be. The Sarretts give lessons, classes, afternoon trail rides – anything someone not quite ready to purchase a horse could possibly want to do. Ruth claimed that this is what she feels she was always meant to do.
And, from Ruth's dedication to her equine family (and the plaque in the barn proudly stating, “Horses are like potato chips… no one can have just one”), it’s apparent that while these horses may not have the same affluence as their neighbors over at Rhythm and Balance, they certainly have the same care and attention.
Now it was time for lunch. The Rockin’ S Arena features good ol' fashioned roping, bulldogging, and barrel racing at its best. This provided the perfect backdrop for the lunch break. Participants were given sack lunches to enjoy as they watched a roping display. One gentleman stated, “I bet these horses think that the horses at Rhythm and Balance are sissies.” Another quickly answered, “Yea, but these horses probably call those horses Boss.”
Rockin’ S Arena is the place in Morgan County to see real live rodeo. It was relevant in many ways to the tour because spectators witnessed the way Americans made a living with horses 150 years ago in the cowboy era – all the way until today in the rodeo era.
The final stop on the tour was the famous Southern Cross Ranch. Home to over 150 Quarterhorses, Paints, Percherons, and Appaloosas, this operating dude ranch and bed and breakfast caters primarily to European visitors and people wanting a good home-cooked buffet style meal. They call themselves a “Horse Lover’s Paradise” and with over 200 acres of pristine Piedmont land on which to ride, it seems to be an apt description.
As the tour was ending, one attendee remarked, “That’s why I love this. You get to see things right here in Morgan County that you never knew existed.” - an excellent commentary showing that the Farm City Tour’s goal of connecting the tourism draw of Madison to the working agricultural side of Morgan County was a huge success.
Printed in the April 30, 2009 Edition