A Civil War-era working farm in Land Between the Lakes that faced threats of downsizing and closure last year under the weight of federal budget constraints will largely see no changes during the 2021 season.
The proposed changes at The Homeplace 1850s Working Farm were part of LBL’s sustainable recreation plan. The plan features maintenance improvements, workforce level recommendations, and financial modifications to parts of the property not generating sustainable revenue. WKMS previously reported the U.S. Forest Service, LBL’s parent agency, cited the Homeplace’s budget as lopsided when comparing income and expenses.
LBL’s recommendation to scale down operations at The Homeplace met swift backlash from community members, natives of Between the Rivers, and the Friends of Land Between the Lakes, the recreation area’s nonprofit partner that staffs and handles programming at the farm.
With the beginning of the farm’s operating season in early March, Homeplace stakeholders see an opportunity to raise visitorship and increase revenue. Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Carlin Lewis said if everyone who expressed support for The Homeplace following the release of the sustainable recreation plan were to visit the farm in the 2021 season, budget issues could potentially be averted.
“That energy and excitement for the Homeplace can be translated into visits to the Homeplace so our visitation can go up and we can operate more sustainably,” Lewis told WKMS.
Despite the hope for higher visitation revenue, Forest Service officials are still seeking to shift management at The Homeplace to include new funding partners. One entity expressing interest in an increased presence at the farm is the municipal government of Stewart County, Tennessee. County Mayor Robin Brandon said he is working with federal leaders to find more funding for The Homeplace.
“I’ve asked for a million dollars a year for the next three years to be allocated through the Forest Service or however the senators and the congressmen want to do it,” Brandon said. “But rather than take money away from these attractions, we want to add money to these attractions.”
Brandon said about half of Stewart County is occupied by federal land through Land Between the Lakes, the Fort Donelson National Battlefield, and Fort Campbell. He said the county has opportunities for tourism growth, and The Homeplace is at the crux of the area’s attraction as a Civil War heritage site.
LBL is using money from its trust to partially fund The Homeplace in the 2021 season. Lewis said that isn’t a sustainable solution to the budget problem, and the revenue of the coming months coupled with potential partnership agreements will be key in determining the future of the farm.