By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
One day in 2007, Cathy Ellis spotted a Christmas tree farmer working on the side of the road and she told her husband she wanted to turn around.
“We had bought a piece of property and I was wanting to plant Christmas trees,” she said. “So I said, ‘Honey, let’s pull over and talk to this Christmas tree farmer.’ And of course he made the U-turn with a heavy sigh.”
Ellis’ husband, Tom, thought their journey was leading straight to pines and Douglas firs, but then things took an unexpected turn.
“That farmer told us, ‘Oh, you don’t want a Christmas tree farm — it’s too much work. You want a pumpkin patch,’” Ellis said.
The couple took him at his word and a year later Dream Field Farms opened as a pumpkin patch. But it wasn’t long before they began to use the farm for a variety of work.
“We began to see the need to host summer camps for inner city kids,” said Ellis, who along with her husband is a member of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Union Springs, in Bullock Baptist Association.
So in 2009 they hosted their first camp and 11 seasons later they’re still expanding. Ellis said the camps are like Vacation Bible School with a farm twist — instead of normal games for recreation they go fishing, canoeing and help with the animals.
This summer more than 30 children made decisions to follow Christ.
“We’re looking for churches to come and partner with us so we can have camp for more weeks next year,” Ellis said.
As the farm’s ministry has grown they’ve started a nonprofit organization and built more cabins and facilities. They have helped the local economy by providing jobs and also have used volunteers to help them build a ropes course for tweens and teens.
Gene Bridgman, director of missions for Bullock Association, said they’ve been an incredible ministry partner.
“Everything they do is for ministry,” he said. “They’re humble and believe that Dream Field Farms is God’s not theirs. They want to present Jesus to everyone who comes there and they want it to be a place where Jesus brings people together.”
Ellis said it’s a blessing for her to see what’s happened out of that first seed of an idea 12 years ago.
“I’m just grateful to be the vessel to watch this happen,” she said. “To see children learn to love the Lord and see families come to a farm and take a breath — I’m just honored I get to be a small part of it.”