Bringing history to life: Local man has ambitious plans for the Model Farm

May. 11, 2014 @ 08:03 PM

During the years after the Civil War, the Model Farm was known far and wide for showcasing the latest agricultural technology.
Nearly 150 years later, Kent Berry wants to transform the 2 acres that contain the 1867 farmhouse into something that will have a host of modern-day benefits.
Berry closed on the property, off Brentwood Street in south High Point, last week, purchasing it from Preservation Greensboro.
A licensed marriage and family therapist, he plans to restore the site into a counseling center with a community education component that will teach organic farming.
Berry said he was amazed the historical landmark, which remains as a monument to the area’s strong Quaker heritage, was available for a relative bargain.
The purchase price was $30,000.
“Over the last 20 years, I’ve had a dream of having a counseling center that was in a family, homelike setting,” Berry said. “I think the phrase we use on our literature is, ‘conducive to healing the mind, body and spirit.’ I’ve always kind of kept my eyes open. I just happened to be looking at commercial properties one day, and I saw this and I just knew they left a zero off the asking price.”
The farm was established just after the Civil War by the Baltimore Association of Friends for the benefit of Quakers who had settled in Guilford and surrounding counties, many of whom were fleeing to the west in the wake of the war’s devastation.
The goal was to improve farming techniques and crop yields, according to a description on the website of the National Register of Historic Places, where the Model Farm was listed in 2011.
“The idea of the Model Farm was to provide training in modern farm methods, machinery, and animal husbandry, as well as serve as a centralized location for selling seeds, farming implements, fertilizer, and livestock,” the site stated.
Originally situated on 200 acres, the farm drew people from all over the state to learn modern farming.
“One focus of the farm’s teaching was improving soil quality by cultivating certain plants, like clover, that could be plowed under to reinvigorate the soil,” according to the National Register description.
The farmhouse has stood empty for years.
After the previous owners’ plans to open a bed-and-breakfast fell through, they donated the property to Preservation Greensboro, which offered it for sale on the condition that it be restored in a way that didn’t compromise its historical features.
Berry said he hopes to raise about $500,000 to fund restoration of the house.
Lead paint all over the structure has to be removed, some repairs to the foundation will be required and all the windows will be restored, he said.
“It needs a pretty full restoration,” Berry said.
Detailed architectural plans are in the works, he added, which should give the community more information about the plans for the site, and hopefully spur donations to the project.
“Once we get that, it will help with fundraising, as far as naming opportunities at different aspects of the farm,” Berry said. “We have a lot of fundraising to do.”
To help get things started, the Hayden Harman Foundation has offered the Model Farm a $10,000 challenge grant.
Berry said he ultimately would like to move his entire practice — High Point Family Therapy Services — to the farm. He envisions a mixture of counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists and professionals from other mental health fields working in the house.
He plans to build a second structure on the back of the house for office and multipurpose space, as well as a courtyard for community events.
“The history of the project is really driving it,” he said. “Everyone I’ve spoken with thinks it’s a good project. It’s just a matter of whether we can raise the funds.”

Want to help?
Checks written for tax-deductible contributions on behalf of the Model Farm should be made out to Preservation Greensboro and mailed to Preservation Greensboro Inc., P.O. Box 13136, Greensboro, NC 27415. Be sure to designate the gift in the memo line as The Model Farm Inc. For more information about the project, visit www.themodelfarm.org, or contact Kent Berry by phone at 991-6620 or by email at kberry@TheModelFarm.Org.