GREENWOOD, S.C. (WSPA) – For some educational fun, that’s free and open to the public in the Upstate, head south to Greenwood and stop at Emerald Farm. The family farm is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. owner Kathryn Zahn said.
Visitors must wear masks while shopping inside either of the two stores on the farm. Everything from antiques, to locally sourced foods, and goat milk soap are among the items for sale.
There’s also the option to catch a ride on the CSX train that travels across a small section of the 70 acre farm.
Plus, hands-on-learning with many of the farm animals is available for anyone who’s interested, or just wandering the farm.
“We have lots of ducks. We have lots of peacocks. We have chickens. We have our dairy stock, our Saanen goats and we have a young baby calf. He’s about eight weeks old,” Zahn said. “A lot of children have not had an opportunity to get that close to certain animals. So, we encourage that. Come and feed and look and learn.”
Zahn explained the classes on animal care are informal, but visitors don’t have to attend, they can just come and watch the animals interact.
A more formal set of classes are offered for beekeeping.
“The Lakeland Beekeepers and they come to the farm and teach you how to work with the bees. So that if you decide to raise them yourself, you’ll know how, and you know where to get help with them if you need it,” Zahn said.
Zahn teaches visitors how to make their own goat milk soaps and talks about the health benefits of goats milk on skin.
Additionally, there’s a huge model train room on the top floor of the antique shop. It took more than 13 years to build, and it’s still not finished. Train enthusiasts and collectors, of all ages, are welcome to watch and even run their own trains, Zahn added.
“It’s just an unlimited time that you can come and enjoy your trains if you don’t have a place to run them. You can join the club and keep your trains here and come and run them on our tracks,” Zahn said.
If educational fun is still top of mind, six minutes down the road from Emerald Farm is the actual home of one of the founders of the American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.
The GLEAMNS Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historic Preservation Site, nearly 10 years old, is free and open to the public. Since the pandemic, its hours have changed to Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.
Site Director, Christopher Thomas, said tours typically take 1 to 1.5 hours. Thus, it’s a good idea to call head and schedule a tour, especially for groups.
While some may want to stop talking about race in the current climate, Thomas explained that it’s best to continue because the only way forward towards change, is with informed accurate facts on the past.
“We have to understand that even though things aren’t as bad as they once were. There is still some work to be done,” Thomas said. “We went through nearly 300 years of slavery and then another 100 years of segregation in American society. You’re just not going to end that in 55 years later, have racism and race disparities just disappear in a society.”
“We really want people to understand the conditions that Mays rose out of, because then you get a real sense of how extraordinary his life was,” Thomas explained.
Thomas said Mays’ family home, originally in the community of Epworth, South Carolina, was purchased, moved and preserved on the site to be an inspirational reminder that humble beginnings define nothing.
“To go from that condition, to go on to be an advisor to three presidents. To sit with some of the greatest world leaders of the day and to literally change the course of American society is just an phenomenal story,” Thomas said.
Mays mentored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Hank Aaron, Andrew Young, and Mater Jackson, to name a few. He also met with world leaders Mahatma Gandhi, Presidents John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.
“Without Dr. Mays there wouldn’t be a Dr King. Without Dr. Mays there probably wouldn’t have been a civil rights movement, particularly as quickly as it was. So, I think his life touches a significant part of American history and it’s important that we understand his life and celebrate it,” Thomas said.
Born to freed slaves, Mays was the youngest of eight. His family were sharecroppers, thus he grew up picking cotton. From the cotton fields Mays went on to get a college education and didn’t stop there.
“Much of what drove Mays was this belief, this idea, that he was as good as any man. He goes on and spends a good part of his life seeking to prove that. I think he ultimately does, and he then goes on to encourage his students to do the same when he was the President of Moorehouse College,” Thomas said.
In addition to college president, Mays was also a dean at Howard University, and he held positions in the National Urban League and the YMCA.
“You get a sense that Mays was really this great bridge between two worlds and because of that, I think, Mays represents the highest and the best good in America as it relates to race relations,” Thomas said.
Anyone looking to learn about American History up close and personal is welcome, Thomas said.
In Greenwood, SC there will be another location named after Dr. Benjamin E. Mays starting Friday, August 14th. The school board voted to rename Springfield Elementary, at 1608 Florida Avenue, after the Civil Rights Leader last year. A short ceremony on Aug. 14 will begin at 10 a.m. outside of the school, and everyone is welcome Thomas said.