Building community through art, food, culture, and animals.
Ever wonder how a dying town finds a new lease on life? How boarded up buildings become bastions for new businesses? How small rural communities can educate youth while empowering them to improve their hometowns? If so, you’re going to love meeting these Possibilitarians. They embrace bold ideas with purposeful action and inspire and mobilize others to do the same. They focus on solutions instead of problems. They think positively and act with passion. They turn possibilities into realities.
In 2015, Chatman Neely and Harry Sanford opened their Northern Panhandle farm as Barn With Inn B&B. Since then, Sanford, a practicing veterinarian, and Neely, a former social work professor and counselor, have turned their sights to nearby Wellsburg. They’ve restored the circa 1840 Sarah Miller House as in-town accommodations, partnered with Chef Brian Magliochetti to offer popular Chef’s Table dinners, and opened Martha’s Gallery to support art and music—and there’s more in the works.
Do you see what you do as community-building?
Definitely! When we opened Barn With Inn, we almost immediately met this whole community of people that are turning their farms into businesses. Now, together, we offer these amazing dinners featuring a specific farm every month and, except for staples, it’s almost completely local throughout the year. The dinners are just one example. The way Harry and I talk about it is, we decided to create here what we travel to look for. We’re regional, it’s art, it’s food and culture, it’s animals, and we couldn’t do it without everybody. It’s also expanding outward over time.
How has the community changed in your two decades there?
I think a growing number of people realize how important it is to know where your food comes from. I also think people are recognizing the significance of salvaging historic properties. They’re such an asset to a community, and they just build more businesses.
What’s the most fun?
Watching people slow down. We don’t have broadband at the farm, we don’t have great internet or cell signal, and I can’t tell you the number of people who come to the B&B and they’re walking around—they want the Wi-Fi, they’re on their phones. But the next day, they walk in for breakfast and say, “Wow, I have not slept that well since I can’t remember when.”
Chef Brian is going to start offering cooking classes at Sarah Miller House. And we’re working with Wiley Cash, a New York Times best-seller who taught at Bethany College, to start The Land More Kind Appalachian Artist Residency. That’s our big project for 2022.
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