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Kindergarten students visit Drop Farm in Stoney Creek

As the sunlight fell across the fields and buildings, the sounds of children’s laughter rang through the air at the Drop Farm on Stoney Creek Friday morning.

Kindergarten students from Unaka and Hunter Elementary schools spent a day at the Drop Farm learning about animals and farming. The farm is part of the Drop Collaborative, a unique project between Carter County Schools and the family of the late John C. and Patti Drop, whose dream was to see their farm used to teach farming, give back to the community and mentor young children.

After John and Patti Drop passed away, their farm on Dry Hollow Road in Stoney Creek passed to Patti Drop’s sister, Frances Meyer. In trying to decide what to do with the farm, Frances and her daughter, Pattie Meyer, developed the idea of turning the farm into an education center and way to serve the community. Pattie Meyer reached out to East Tennessee State University and the Appalachian Resource and Development Council and was put in touch with Unaka High School, which has an active agriculture program. Now, students in the program work on the farm as part of their education learning how to work and manage a farm with livestock and crops.

On Friday, Pattie Meyer was at the farm to visit the program. A smile spread across her face as she watched the young students learning about farming.

“He would absolutely love this,” Pattie Meyer said about her uncle.

Frances Meyer and her sister Patti Drop were originally from Carter County, but their family moved to New Jersey during World War II, Pattie Meyer said. It was there that her aunt met her uncle after he returned home from his service in the Navy. John was a police officer with the Belleville, New Jersey, police department for 25 years. He and Patti purchased the farm on Stoney Creek in 1971 and eventually moved there in 1981 after he retired from the police department.

Farming then became his passion, Pattie Meyer said. “He became a true farmer,” she said. “He just loved it so much, and he loved children. When I’m here, I feel like he’s here.”

Patti Drop still had family in the area, and the couple made many good friends after they moved to the farm.

Pattie Meyer said her uncle found peace and fulfillment on his farm and he wanted to help others find that same thing.

“He felt if kids came here, especially if they were troubled, they could find a sense of self-worth,” she said.

She said she has been so pleased with how the Drop Collaborative program has turned out and with Unaka High School and the Carter County School System. She said she knew her uncle would be pleased as well.

Each year in the fall, the Drop Farm hosts groups of young children from the local elementary schools for a day of fun on the farm. These visits help to fulfill part of the Drop Collaborative’s mission to educate people about farming and also mentoring youth as students from the high school work with the young children who visit.

Dr. Melissa Loveless, who is the Career Technical Education (CTE) Principal at Unaka High School, said the visits by the younger students also serve another purpose.

“The main reason we bring the little ones is to help promote the agriculture program,” she said. “Maybe this will spark an interest for when they get to high school.”