RACHAEL SMITH The (Lynchburg) News & Advance
BEDFORD — Though the barn at Bedford-based Cedar Oaks Farm has been open since last year for indoor weddings and some events for local churches and organizations, this month the venue is offering, for the first time, outdoor weddings with a view of the Peaks of otters.
Owner Glen Thomas and his wife Teresa purchased the 160-acre farm in 2018 and spent the first two years just clearing the land near Timber Ridge Road off US 221. They have purchased additional land since then, making the entire property 188 acres.
“You just don’t see 160 acres that often off US 221,” Glen Thomas said.
When it was bought, Thomas said the farm wasn’t being used and was connected to another 100 acres on the other side of a railroad track.
“A family had it for sale, and I saw the ‘For Sale’ sign on the road, but at the time we didn’t have any interest in owning a farm,” Thomas said.
He ended up purchasing it and planned for the property to become a conservation easement and built a barn to keep tractors in.
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“The land was basically all trees and as we started taking poplars down, we started to get this view of the Peaks of Otter,” he said. “As we started doing that, the mountains started opening up, so I told the timber company to keep going.”
About 60 acres of trees were taken down.
After seeing the revealed views of the mountains, Teresa Thomas, owner of Ashley Grace Bridal in Forest, said the space would be best used as a wedding venue.
The tractors were removed and the barn became an indoor event space.
Most recently, a bridal and groom suite were built up on the hillside and will be ready for use later in March.
“We started building during COVID but had to make adjustments due to the prices of lumber,” Thomas said.
Both suites overlook the outdoor ceremony site. Beyond the ceremony site is a pond with a field of wildflowers, an expansive outdoor covered patio with seating, high-top tables and chairs, and string lights. The grounds also have a fire pit overlooking the mountains.
Last March and April, a few weddings were held in the barn, Thomas said, but the driveway wasn’t paved yet, so this will be the first open season for events at the farm.
Ruthie Gillespie, whose daughter, Sarah, got married at the venue last year, said her family knew Cedar Oaks Farm was the place they wanted to use for their wedding from the first moment they stepped on the grounds.
“The ceremony site is a picturesque view of the Peaks of Otter Mountains,” Gillespie said. “Not only was the outdoors filled with views, but the indoor venue was just as beautiful.”
In the planning stages for Cedar Oaks: Adding cows, raising bees for honey, adding a rock garden with flowers and installing steps heading from the outdoor ceremony site to the barn.
Thomas said he hopes to also add a pumpkin patch this fall for churches to use.
“The whole idea is that we’re a farm, so we took off probably 200 round bales of hay last year. Hopefully this year we’ll get between 300 and 400,” he said. “And so the idea is everything just to look as simple as possible and to just stay with the farm theme.”
Thomas said Bedford County is a great place for brides to get married and added there are multiple wonderful venues available.
Because of COVID, venues are still working to reschedule for weddings that were supposed to take place in 2020. He thinks venues are still about a year out from being caught up but noted Cedar Oaks has a lot of availability.
“Brides call us before they even tour to ask if we even have the date available,” he said.
Cedar Oaks Farm also allows brides to use any caterer, florist, DJ and other vendors. Some venues will require the use of their own, which Thomas said some brides like, but he wanted to encourage autonomy.
“Some brides like the fact that they don’t have to make all the decisions. We are the opposite of that,” Thomas said. “We really have set ourselves up as almost an Airbnb in the sense that you rent the place for the day and all we do is basically park cars.”
Thomas said the venue has been rented out free of charge to the Bedford Sheriff’s Office, Bedford Fire Department and Thomas Road Baptist Church.
“It’s been great for us because I enjoy all the events, but it gets used a lot besides just the weddings,” he said.
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