BRAYBERRY FARM ~ A Gentle Cross to Bear~

Written by Allyson Johnson

The Arkansas River Valley is home to many beautiful landscapes. Mountains, lakes and parks around the area make it truly a spectacular place to visit. But, there is no place as breathtaking as the home of Brayberry Farm. It rests on the side of a mountain a little ways past Dover.

In the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, it was a large peach orchard owned by the Shoptaw family. This orchard was irrigated by a natural spring that ran through the property. In an attempt to enhance the flow of the spring, dynamite was used and unfortunately it rerouted and destroyed the spring leading to the decline of the orchard.

Ron and Nora Reimer purchased the property in the 1980s. Ron was a landscape contractor and is responsible for creating the beautiful landscape that exists on the property today. Ron invested over 20 years developing a strain of apricot trees conducive to Arkansas climate. Over 500 apricot trees still remain on the property.

Phil and Lori Howard purchased this property in 2005. It was kind of a coincidence that this property fell into their hands. They had been looking to purchase a location outside of town in 2000 when they found this one-of-a-kind piece of land.

Unfortunately their home didn’t sell and they had to forfeit on buying the property. In 2005, they were in search of property once again when they heard about this beautiful land outside of Dover. They knew this had to be the same property they wanted to purchase in 2000. They immediately considered this providence, and purchased the property. After building a beautiful three-story house, they moved into their new home in January of 2007.

When Phil and Lori purchased the property with such beautiful landscaping, privacy and wildlife galore, they made a commitment to share it with others as much as possible. Lori says their goal has been to create an atmosphere of simplicity and to encourage others to appreciate nature and all that God has created.

For the past three years the Howards have been host to a fun-filled pumpkin patch. This includes pumpkins, face-paintings and games. The proceeds of their annual pumpkin patch benefits the preschool program at their church.

Their home also is a haven for area photographers looking for beautiful pictures. Many children also visit their property during school field trips.

While this is one breathtaking place to visit based on the landscaping and nature alone, not to mention the cooler weather and evening breezes, there is one other thing that makes Brayberry Farm unique. They raise miniature Mediterranean donkeys. Yes… donkeys.

Most people are not familiar with miniature donkeys (including the author.) Once around these precious creatures, I cannot imagine a more special animal to raise.

The story of how the miniature donkey farm got started is quite comical. After Lori saw a picture of a baby miniature donkey online, she convinced Phil to visit the only farm they knew of in Arkansas that raised these creatures, in Vilonia.

After just one minute in the pasture, they were both hooked. While Phil was on a mission trip to Central America, Lori purchased the first two. What a surprise for him when he got back to Arkansas.

The idea was that it would be a fun addition to the pumpkin patch to have a couple of driving donkeys for carts. Almost three years later their herd has grown to 25 donkeys.

Miniature donkeys are very affectionate animals and they are naturally attracted to people. They strongly care for their family and develop lasting bonds with humans. Miniature donkey intelligence is superior to that of other farm animals. They think, reason and are easily trained. They are known to not put themselves or their humans in harm’s way.

These donkeys have an average life span of 30 to 35 years with good nutrition and proper care. But many miniature donkeys have been known to live much longer.

Almost all donkeys have a “cross.” This cross is a darker brown or black stripe running from the top of the donkey’s back from the withers and extending to the rear and down the tail. There is also a shoulder stripe that intersects the dorsal stripe at the withers running down each shoulder.

There is a legend called the “Legend

of the Donkey’s Cross”. It states that the donkey was rewarded for his loyalty to Jesus when he carried Him into Jerusalem and staying with Him at the crucifixion by placing the shadow of the cross across the donkeys back for all to remember the importance of God’s humblest of creatures. Who knew?

The Howards say that miniature donkeys are small and easy to manage, and they’re generally healthy. As far as “livestock” go they are economical to raise. The demand has remained steady and the prices have remained relatively stable for quite some time even through the ups and downs of the economy. The donkeys are very easy to market because they sell themselves with their delightful disposition, love of people and easygoing nature.

It seems there are many things one can do with miniature donkeys. They are easy to train to lead and pull carts. They can be taken to fairs, nursing homes, schools, churches, birthday parties and donkey shows. They always seem to be a hit wherever they go, and they seem to enjoy the adventure.

Some miniature donkeys have become registered therapy donkeys and bring joy to hospitals for children and the elderly.

After one visit to their majestic landscaping, emerald-green pond, overflowing wildlife and ever-affectionate miniature donkeys, visitors will have to tell everyone they know of the wonderful experience that sits just atop the mountain outside of Dover at Brayberry Farm.

For more information visit the website www.brayberry.net

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