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The 61st Annual Lord’s Acre Harvest Sale on Saturday will feature home-baked pies and cakes, home-canned goods, fresh-cooked foods, handmade crafts and bushels of fall produce for sale at Felts Park in Galax.
The event supports local churches, and is sponsored each year by the Carroll-Grayson United Workers for Christ Association.
The day begins with a worship service at 9:30 a.m., followed by the sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The late Richard Hamblin, a Methodist minister, started the Lord’s Acre Sale in 1951 to help local churches raise money and promote good stewardship of the land. It’s still going strong.
Hamblin said the event was inspired by a sermon he heard, about how God made man from the dust of the Mother Earth. “This was the first sermon I had ever heard on stewardship of the soil. The message stuck. It never got away from me.”
When he came to the Twin Counties in 1948, Hamblin was inspired to organize the United Workers for Christ, an interdenominational and interracial group of churches — the first religious movement of its kind in the region — that inspired its members to plant a patch of ground to serve God.
The churches banded together for a harvest festival in 1951, the seed that grew into the annual Lord’s Acre Sale in Galax’s Felts Park.
Each year, the sale raises thousands of dollars for building new fellowship halls, sending people on mission trips, supporting youth ministries, helping people in need or just paying for the daily operations of a small church.
Each summer, all around the Twin Counties, church members prepare for the big day.
They pick beans, can fruit, bake cakes and cook up gallons of apple butter.
A variety of food and crafts are sold, including molasses, pumpkins, potatoes, baked goods, canned fruits and vegetables, honey, needlework, plate lunches, cabbage, biscuits and the perennial favorites — fried apple pies and bowls of pinto beans and onions.
Fifteen churches participated in the first harvest festival.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 people attended the first Lord’s Acre.
The sale was a major event in the city from the start. A Gazette article from that time tells of an auction of hundreds of bushels of corn, 88 gallons of molasses, a dozen quilts, 10 calves, hundreds of jars of fruit, pigs, pumpkins and two white rabbits.
The churches raised $4,000 that first year.
More than 60 local churches now belong to Carroll-Grayson United Workers for Christ.
After he left Galax, Hamblin had pastorates throughout Southwest Virginia.
Everywhere he went, Hamblin spread the Lord’s Acre movement, earning the names “Grassroots Mr. Lord’s Acre” and “Mr. Lord’s Acre of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”