The warm sound of a 1924 Victrola phonograph played for crowds at the Tar Heel Antique Festival and Christmas Craft Show this past weekend, held at The Barn at Lloyd’s Dairy. A chill wind drove visitors into the 20,000-square-foot barn, where antique and craft vendors sold specialty goods. While the Lloyd family continues to maintain a working farm on the 700-acre property, events like the antique festival have helped them expand.
“These agritourism events, that’s supplementing farm income for us to keep going,” said Ben Lloyd, farmer and owner of the property. “If it wasn’t for that, this farm would be sold next week.
“This [land] has been in our family for 10 generations,” said Craig Lloyd, Ben’s son and promotor for The Barn at Lloyd’s Dairy. “Our great, great grandfather moved to Orange County in 1752. Our goal is to keep it for another 10 generations. We have to come up with other concepts like this to diversify.”
The Lloyd property was a working dairy farm for 84 years, but transitioned to growing soy, corn, and hay in 2002, all of which are still grown there.
“We had one of the highest producing herds in state,” Ben said, “but it got to where people wanted to buy what you produced [for] cheaper than it cost to produce it.”
According to Lloyd, the number of dairy farms in Orange County has gone from around 120 to just one over the past 54 years.
But when a young woman approached Ben about holding a wedding at the barn, he began to consider other creative uses for the property. Now, The Barn at Lloyd’s Dairy holds weddings, a haunted house at Halloween, and, as of this year, the antique festival in the spring and fall.
The antique festival on Saturday and Sunday drew visitors from Jacksonville to Concord. Pope Auction Company auctioned off donated items, and auctioneer Daniel Godfrey offered free appraisals of antiques that visitors brought from home, such as antique dolls or sterling silver sets.
“That’s kind of the thing people have that’s passed down from generations that people have no idea about,” Godfrey said. “When I look at something, I hopefully can tell people a little bit about it and where it came from.”
Vendors Darryll Vann and his wife Arona McNeill-Vann were excited to offer specialty items including toys from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the Victrola wind-up phonograph. They were also in attendance at the spring festival, noting with a laugh that it was “a little chillier this time.”
“What’s amazing about it is that two weeks ago this was a haunted house,” Lloyd commented, looking around at the Christmas lights and wreaths decorating the barn.
The Lloyd family members have many ideas for how the space could be used in the future, including closing in the sections where farm equipment is currently housed in order to rent out the spaces for events.
Like the stories behind the antiques on display over the weekend, the Lloyds hope that their barn will continue to tell people something about where their family has come from, and where it may be going.