Campbell alumna rejuvenates family farm into wedding venue

Once upon a time, there was a family, and a farm that the family loved. The farm was a place of childhood discoveries, fishing trips, family dinners, and a safe place to explore and adventure. Doris Strickland, the matriarch of the family, welcomed her loved ones to her farm at every chance, until one day she suffered a stroke and was placed in a nursing home. Gradually, visits to the farm grew further and further apart. Doris passed away at the age of 93 in 2009, leaving a painful hole in the hearts of her loved ones, as well as a pressing question. What was going to happen to the farm?

In the weeks following, her granddaughter, Carole Strickland Rodriguez (‘06), was struck by “an overwhelming feeling of sadness that her home and the farm felt lifeless and lonely.” She wanted the farm to remain a warm place for family gatherings and for her children to make memories of their own. She couldn’t just let the farm die.

“So we began what has been an almost decade-long project to breathe life back into a place that we love,” Rodrigeuz said. With a lot of time and hard work, the farm, once owned by Roger and Doris Strickland, has been turned into The Roger Strickland Farm, a wedding and special event venue in Bailey, North Carolina.

Rodriguez, a business administration graduate from Campbell’s Research Triangle Park satellite campus, has used her degree to begin her new endeavor. “Everything about my business administration degree prepared me for this. I’ve referred back to my books and the knowledge I acquired so many times over the years,” she said. She extends thanks to Richard Zanone, former director of the Campbell RTP campus, saying, “He was such a positive impact on so many of us and genuinely cared about our success.”

After a friend suggested the idea of turning the beloved space into an event venue for others to enjoy, Rodriguez began the long process of converting the farm. “Our intention from the beginning was to breathe life back into a place that has meant so much to our family and friends for generations. My late grandparents’ farm has been the core of so many of our best family memories, and having the opportunity to share their farm and create new memories means the world to us,” she said. “It gives us a huge sense of purpose and we think it’s a beautiful way to honor their legacy.”

The 76-acre farm opened in November 2017. Vendors and friends gathered to help celebrate. The Nash County Sheriff’s Department was on hand to assist with parking and traffic, and an officer introduced herself to Rodriguez before the ceremony began. “As it turns out, she grew up in the house that used to sit on the other side of our property. We were both stunned. As a little girl, I remember watching her and her sisters get off the school bus and walk down the dirt road across the pond to their house. It’s hard to find the words to convey the magnitude of that moment and how special it was that she not only knew my grandmother, but that so many of her fondest childhood memories were made at the farm too,” Rodriguez said. That sense of connection and witnessing other people rediscover the farm made the countless hours of work worthwhile.

“So many of the people that used to come to the farm when I was little have been coming back to visit lately,” Rodriguez said. “We all have great memories of my grandparents and time spent at the farm. I really enjoy the stories they share.”

Rodriguez describes the most rewarding aspect of her work as, “Getting to meet and know so many sweet couples and hearing their stories. It’s all about human connection and it’s become one of my favorite parts of being a venue.” A naturally creative person, she also loves watching her ideas come to life before her. One of her biggest projects involves refinishing old church pews and adding them to the rolling landscape, allowing them to serve a purpose again, much like the farm itself.

In less than a year, The Roger Strickland Farm has already distinguished itself among other venues in the state. It is the first venue in North Carolina to join The Slow Wedding Movement, a network of vendors in the wedding industry with a mission “to come together and instigate change through this slow wedding approach to bring back the ceremony, the community and originality of special celebrations.” That mission spoke to Rodriguez, who felt burnt out from what she called the “proverbial rat race.” Wanting “a quality life to offer an opportunity for families to gather, celebrate, and enjoy time together,” The Slow Wedding Movement was a perfect fit for her vision.

Photo courtesy of Nieto Photography.

Carole Rodriguez wanted to preserve the farm for her children and their cousins to experience the happy memories of her own childhood. In doing so, she has created a space for others to form their own special memories. From weddings to birthday parties, The Roger Strickland farm is a deliberate attempt to cherish important moments and enjoy a sense of community.

How does Rodriguez feel about seeing others make the farm their own special spot, just as she did? That’s easy. “It brings meaning to the hashtag #allthefeels.”

To learn more about The Roger Strickland Farm visit here.

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Rachel Davis, Office of Alumni Engagement Student Worker Writer
Nieto Photography Photography

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