Farm Again

Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farms

At the entrance to Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farms, a bright colorful sign welcomes customers and guests. Blooming daffodils and fruit trees come into view as the drive winds toward the farm. Soon there are sounds of crowing roosters that seem to personally greet each new visitor.

The drive eventually leads to the Rabbit Shack, the lively headquarters for the farm. On the porch is a board announcing the fresh produce of the day, along with a selection of potted plants and unique knickknacks. Inside the Rabbit Shack there is a table to gather around, a big country sink, and a hearty wood-burning stove. By the sink, there are dozens of freshly gathered eggs. The character of this comfortable and welcoming room is an extension of the owners of Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farm, Andy and Hilda Byrd.

Visitors will be warmly greeted by Andy (who deftly navigates his 4x4 wheelchair up and down the many peaks and valleys on the farm), his wife Hilda, and their dog Sadie. The Byrd’s are wonderful hosts and it doesn't take long to feel at home at Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farm. Visitors will definitely be in no hurry to leave once they arrive here.
Located in Walnut Grove / Covington, Georgia, the 74 acre certified organic farm offers a diverse array of things to see and do. There are fruits, vegetables, fresh eggs, and organic feed and fertilizers for sale. There are also an array of animals including rabbits, sheep,
chickens, and horses. They offer tours of the farm and host several large events each year as well.

The Byrd's heard about the Farm Again program from their UGA County Extension Agent, William Carlan. They thought the program would
be able to assist Andy Byrd, who sustained a spinal cord injury
during a diving accident. “We hope [Farm Again] will enable us to find some type of apparatus for Andy to be able to do some of the labor on the farm himself,” said Hilda Byrd.

Farm Again staff met with the Byrd’s to identify what their needs were. A plan was jointly developed that will look at assistive technology to make Andy’s job easier and to help assist with the plans to expand the farm.

One of the resources that the AgrAbility staff identified to help the Byrd's is the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at The University of Georgia. They provide business consulting and continuing education opportunities to Georgia’s entrepreneurs. They assist with information such as how to start a business, how to write a business plan, how to apply for a loan or seek out other financial resources, how to market products and services, and how to plan for the succession of the business.  “I think [SBDC] brought us to where we can focus on certain things, kind of bringing the whole circle down into a little bit smaller circle to where you can start prioritizing,” said Andy Byrd.

The Farm Again project also assisted Andy with the following:

  • Installed a voice recognition software (Dragon Dictate) on his computer. The software converts his speech to typed text. The software also can operate many functions on the computer by voice command. This allows Andy to independently perform many of the administrative duties for the farm.
  • Organized a volunteer project day on the farm. Volunteers built raised planting beds at the height of Andy's wheelchair.  
  • Fabricated an automated pruner that can be operated with a toggle switch and is powered off the battery on his wheelchair.
  • A senior landscape design student at UGA created a detailed layout of the farm that illustrated current and future plans. This layout enabled others to see the vision for the farm and guided the business plan.

“I think [the Farm Again staff] is really excited about what we’re planning on doing. I think that if you’re excited about it, you’re going to do it. The good Lord brings us the right people right when we think we are ready for things to happen. I think ya’ll are the ones that are going to push us up to the top of the hill and give us that extra boost and really bring us together,” said Andy Byrd.


Rare Gifts from a Rare Person
A Tribute to Hilda Byrd, Georgia Farmer and Farm Again / AgrAbility Peer Coordinator - October 2009

By Rebecca Brightwell, Farm Again Co-Director

The first time I met Hilda Byrd was on a site visit to Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farm, which she and husband Andy owned near Covington, Georgia. I had initially planned to go early in the morning and leave in a few short hours. Before I knew it, it was getting dark outside, and I enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal made from the vegetables grown on the Byrds’ farm. 

Hilda was the type of person that, within five minutes of meeting her, you felt you had known her your entire life. She made you think that you were the most important person in the room, no matter how busy she was. Above all, Hilda had great optimism about life. She saw something good in everyone and everything. Even the most challenging situations would become an opportunity for an adventure in her eyes.

Over time, Hilda became a Peer Coordinator with the Farm Again/AgrAbility program. The farmers and ranchers we worked with adored her. She made them feel a part of her family, just as she had made me feel the first day I met her. She could put anyone instantly at ease.

While we knew the severity of Hilda’s diagnosis, we could not fathom that she would not overcome this, as she had so many other things. Up until the time of her passing, she was smiling as always and making plans for the farm. 

On the day of her funeral, the church couldn’t hold the number of people that came to pay their respects. Some people had only known Hilda a few weeks, and others had known her since she was a child. She had touched us all in such a profound personal way. Soon sadness was replaced with laughter as everyone shared stories about Hilda and her many adventures.

What hit me that day was the importance of the legacy we leave behind. Hilda changed me forever and will always be a part of my life. She taught me to slow down and truly listen to the people around me, to look for beauty and joy everywhere, and to find something in life you are passionate about. Indeed, rare gifts from a rare person.

Update: We are sad to announce that Andy has gone to be with Hilda as well. The world shines a little less bright without them.



Farm Sign

Andy and Hilda Byrd
Hilda and Andy Byrd in front of the raised bed built during a community volunteer day.

Raised Bed
Children painted hand flowers on the raised beds

Automated Pruners with Toggle Switch
Automated pruner that is operated by a toggle switch. Fabricated by AgrAbility in GA staff.

Design UGA
UGA student discusses her layout design.