Ranting

A Place To Grow

June 16th, 2016

Scott Ledbetter is known for many things – founding LEDIC Management Group and the Society of Entrepreneurs, serving as chair of the Greater Memphis Arts Council, the Memphis Museum System, the zoo, MIFA’s capital campaign, the Pyramid Re-Use Committee, and on more local boards than a framing carpenter – but he is less known around here for something he’s done an hour or so east of here.

What Kathy and Scott Ledbetter made in Hardeman County and what it’s about to become makes for a beautiful story.

A West Tennessee love story.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, June 17, 2016, and in The Memphis News, June 18-24, 2016

LoneOaks

SEEDING TOMORROW IN WEST TENNESSEE.

Things grow in Hardeman County.

Crops, livestock, husbandry in all its forms – and relationship grows there, too, between the wild and the tame, between an abundance of resources and their conservation, between awe and understanding.

The University of Tennessee is planting something new there in fertile ground.

In a place as natural as mist on morning meadows, the sound of water over rocks, stillness in a forest – as the restless ripples of a breeze over sunny lakes, secluded ponds and shrouded brooks, through grass and wildflowers.

In a place called Lone Oaks Farm, a 1,200-acre landscape painting, all the nuances of its personality revealed as you move through its forests and fields like moving through rooms in a gallery, paths in a sculpture garden.

The roads weren’t laid out to crisscross at right angles, dividing everything into just-so squares and rectangles: they were designed to bend and wander, to reveal and surprise, each turn carefully considered to complement just getting from here to there.

The structures are more than barns and buildings, the spaces more than fields and forest, each appears to be exactly where it should be, each a unique statement of its place and purpose, each to be admired, all to work together.

Tomorrow is being planted at Lone Oaks Farm, and tomorrow is looking good.

Scott Ledbetter and I were part of the Leadership Memphis Class of 1982. Two years ago, I met Scott and Kathy at Lone Oaks Farm and they told me about an exciting idea to turn their world-class farm into something more, a University of Tennessee initiative to grow a world-class youth center, executive conference center and retreat in West Tennessee.

That idea is becoming reality.

The 4-H Center at Lone Oaks Farm will provide Tennessee’s largest youth development program plenty of room to stretch, broadening horizons for the 180,000 young Tennesseans enrolled in 4-H, part of the university’s commitment to youth development. And beyond that part, Lone Oaks Farm will serve the whole of that commitment – Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies, schools, school districts and the homeschooled – youth groups of all kinds, shapes and sizes – dreams without limit.

Adult conferences and retreats will afford different views and prompt deeper response. Strolls become walks and walks become adventures. Stress fades in sunsets, pressure drops over every hill, worry is lost in waterfalls.

Seconds, minutes and hours are definitive, but where they’re spent defines their passage and the length and breadth of them.

Time in lines, in meeting after meeting, drags. Time in stories, with friends, flies. Time in cramped space, in tight situations, in small thoughts is uncomfortable, restrictive. Time in open space – under sky, on water, across vistas – is expansive, expecting more. Time in chosen space – in the woods, in that swing, by that fire – is personally tailored to wear better, to last in memory.

Time at Lone Oaks Farm will matter.

I’m a Memphian, and UT is growing something special in West Tennessee.

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