By Matt Ledger
Eight weeks before wedding bells would ring in 2014, Andrew Meeks and his fiancee, Whitney, faced a tough reality. The new barn for their perfect farm wedding wouldn’t be ready.
“We went over our choices, and while many ideas were given, it was my uncle, Brian Maxwell, who said, ‘You have the perfect place at the gin,’” Whitney says.
They faced, however, one daunting problem. The gin was the heart of the Meeks Grain and Gin Company, a building in disrepair.
“Looking at the gin, I had no hope,” Whitney says. Putting the rust in rustic, “the building had basically become a storage building filled with spare parts,” she says.
With only weeks remaining, the family went to work in a race against the calendar.
A family story
In 1947, a wedding began a lasting legacy. After their marriage ceremony, Lloyd and Ruby Meeks started the Meeks Grain and Gin Company, building many of the structures on their homestead. The Pisgah-based farm prospered for many years — an additional 640-acre lot was located 5 miles away — until cotton lost value and farmers sought new crops to survive. Ruby ran the office and even tagged the cotton bales, while Lloyd primarily worked at the cotton gin, which closed in 1975. Their two children, Myra and Nacey, helped their folks on the farm, selling seed and fertilizer.
Switching to potatoes kept the farm going until it too lost value. Nacey continued running the grainery, growing corn, potatoes, wheat and soybeans from 1985 until 1993.
The farm was passed down to another generation in 2011, as Lloyd’s grandson Andrew began to manage the operation. He and his father, Nacey, have left the spuds behind, but still tend fields with the other three crops.
Finding a new purpose
In 2014, the farm’s next generation was waiting. Andrew may have grown up in Pisgah, but his heart found a Henagar girl named Whitney. Both went to Pisgah High School a few years apart, but they first met in 2012 while out with mutual friends in Scottsboro. Whitney also grew up on a farm; however, it raised cattle and horses. “The transition from the farm I grew up on to what Andrew does was difficult at times, but we made it work,” Whitney says.
“Andrew and I started out wanting his farm to be included in our wedding,” Whitney recalls. “After getting engaged in September, he planned to build a barn for us to have our wedding reception in.” However, contractor delays led to an anxious family meeting in March 2014.
Nearly 20 members of the Meeks’ family — ranging in age from 8 to 72 — emptied the overloaded barn, cleaning floors and pressure washing walls. Many farm implements dot the landscape, adding a vintage feel with industrial equipment that isn’t commonly found today.
Andrew and Whitney married on May 24, 2014, before 260 guests. “The location was a complete surprise to many people,” Whitney says. “While traveling on our honeymoon, we decided Meeks Grain & Gin would be the perfect event venue.”
Growing a new business
Soon the corn and soybeans would take a back seat to white rice on weekends, as bridal parties throw the good luck grain on newlyweds. The 50-by-110-foot cotton gin sits on the original 10 acres and is suitable for as many as 300 guests. Reservations fill each weekend of spring, and the gin is nearly booked for fall. The Meekses are already taking dates for 2016.
Andrew and Whitney will begin a new chapter for the Meeks family when their first child, Truitt, is born in July. “This has been a very big year for us and our new business,” Whitney says.