Wooden rocking chairs lining the main barn’s wraparound porch beckon visitors to sit and rest a spell. Whimsical lights dangling from the ceilings inside cast the magical illusion of starlight. Rich, concave oak trees shelter guests on horseback from the beaming sun. Oak Hollow Farm is a beautiful site to see, and now, thanks to the reality TV show “Sweet Home Alabama, ” all of America has had a chance to catch a glimpse of the amenities and activities that the 300-acre property has to offer.
Horseback riding and hayrides through the shaded trails and pastures are premier activities at Oak Hollow. Visitors can go fishing in ponds stocked with bass and bream, walk through nature trails or let their children roam free in the playground area. Skeet shooting is offered daily, while pheasant hunts are available from Sept. 1 through March 31. “We keep up 300 acres that include pastures, crop and wooded areas, ” says Boyd Little, president of Oak Hollow Farm. “The land is filled with hills and, when it rains enough, streams run through it.”
Along with being known for its sprawling landscapes and family-friendly atmosphere, Oak Hollow has quite the reputation for its rescued horses. For the past three years, it has taken in the abused animals when possible and tried to help them get healthy again. The rescue horses are not used for riding. Ultimately they are adopted into good homes.
The scenic spot also plays host to events such as corporate parties, company picnics, reunions, benefits (including Denim and Diamonds and the mammoth Rileigh & Raylee Angel Ride), and most notably weddings. “The alleé that we call the ‘tunnel of trees’ is where most of the weddings take place, ” says event coordinator Joi Laurendine. “It is truly a beautiful area with oaks that flow all the way to the ground.”
Putting Down Roots
The farm itself has been around since the early 1800s. In 1819, the federal government gave 640 acres, known as Section 16 in Baldwin County, to the state of Alabama to be used for schools. George Kaphan ended up purchasing the unused land from the state in 1828, which was sold in 1887 for $640 to James A. Bishop and his wife, Ida. They raised cotton, sugar cane, potatoes, corn and livestock. Today, 280 acres of Section 16 are still in the family and operated by the Bishops’ grandson, William A. Little. In 2001, the Littles decided to open their property to the public, establishing Oak Hollow Farm.
“The land has been carried along through six generations, ” says Boyd, who is William’s son. “As our kids grew up and moved on with their lives, we saw a need for change. We backed out from just solely farming and created an event business to keep our family involved.”
Oak Hollow was cast into the limelight as one of the prominent filming locations for Country Music Television’s hit show “Sweet Home Alabama.” “We hold approximately 25 weddings a year, and there is no question that the number will increase because of the exposure from the TV show, ” Boyd says. “Weddings have picked up and the number of calls have tripled per day.”
But even amidst all the camera lights, the day-to-day chores, such as planting crops and feeding horses, were still carried out as usual. “The film crew always worked around our schedule and operations, ” Boyd says. “They were real cordial.”
During the many days and nights of filming, Glassman and the Oak Hollow family developed a relationship that is truly representative of down-home Southern hospitality. “Boyd and Gay and their family were sitting outside as we were loading up our gear, ” Glassman says. “We were all hugging as I told them how grateful I was to be their guest. Those types of moments rarely, if ever, happen in Los Angeles.”As soon as producer Andrew Glassman set eyes on the property, he knew it would be the perfect place to film. “It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and that comes from Boyd and his family, ” Glassman says. “As far as the scenery, the wide open spaces, the meadows, the trees and, of course, the horses and the stables — all of them are right there in one place — it’s pretty spectacular.”For more information: oakhollowfarm.net or call Joi Laurendine at 928-4840.
Amber Beasley Day