We had the good fortune of connecting with Chip and Sarah Beth Wheeler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chip and Sarah Beth, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
The main thing that we find ourselves inspired by is pursuing and sharing the love and grace that we have found in our relationship with God. We find ourselves motivated in different ways by this relationship but it is certainly at the forefront of what we do each day.
I (Sarah Beth) have always been inspired by being in nature; sunsets and flowers are my fuel. I love being creative, decorating and seeing people enjoy the fruits of these efforts. I am not a photographer, but often find myself capturing and sharing beautiful images with my friends and family. People inspire me as well. I want to see them heal and grow. I am in awe of how they overcome, face adversity and persevere in the midst of hardship.
Chip is inspired by seeing people’s lives change for the better, by nature and is a visionary who enjoys dreaming of the possibilities of what could be.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
We currently find ourselves involved in many types of work. Chip is a full-time pastor at River Hills in Winder. We planted our church 14 years ago. We started with four members and have grown to several hundred members; it has been a labor of love. I work full-time as a Professional Counselor at the Ministry Village in Winder. The Ministry Village was Chip’s vision, and was established by a group of us who realized there were many unmet needs in our community. It opened in 2011 to provide counseling services and foster care support among other resources. In 2012 I was the only therapist, and we now have eight therapists and three interns conducting thousands of sessions each year.
Our most recent work includes opening Fern Creek Farm, a photography venue on our hobby farm in Bethlehem, Georgia. The suffering and sadness the pandemic brought to our world increased my desire to cultivate joy through a creative outlet. I started to arrange flowers, garden and decorate more. Our family spent more time outside on our land. I was asked to create a photo-op backdrop for an event at our church. As a photographer friend and I worked on the backdrop, we began to dream of what creating beautiful backdrops might look like. With her and my husband’s help, the dream grew and Fern Creek Farm became a reality. A photography venue perfectly combines all the things I love to do. It has been very fulfilling to create, improve our land and witness photographers capture beautiful moments that will be enjoyed for years to come. We’ve met some amazing people along the way and feel very blessed!
I think what may set us apart from others is the why behind all that we do. We are involved in many different types of work but the end goal for each of them is connection. Connection with God, our community and with those who come to our farm.
It has taken a lot hard work to get to where we are today. We realize that it isn’t just our hard work that’s gotten us to this point. There have been many mentors who have poured into us, listened to us, and encouraged us to keep going when life got tough. Perseverance has pushed us to overcome many challenges and support has enabled us to keep going. Getting out of our comfort zone over and over throughout the years has forced us to grow tremendously. Learning not to get discouraged by setbacks helped us as we established Fern Creek Farm and have to master an entirely new set of skills. We’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff and to focus on the end goal. “Never give up” has been a theme for us no matter what we do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would probably go on a tour of Georgia. Chip and I talk often about how much we enjoy where we live, we can be in Atlanta in 45 minutes in the mountains in and hour and a half and the beach in about 6 hours. We prefer laid back activities, good food and adventures in nature.
We love the Last Resort in Athens, everything on their menu is absolutely delicious from their fried green tomatoes to the cheesecake. There’s nothing like downtown Athens during football season.
It’s always nice to spend a day in the country. Little City Diner is a relaxing unique place to enjoy a good cup of coffee (you can pick your mug) and sandwich made with the freshest ingredients. After that I’d head to Goodness Grows, “a gardeners paradise”, in Lexington.
I haven’t been there, but would love to head up to Dillard to enjoy a few days at Julep Farms, one of the owners is a designer, decorator and restaurateur. Everything looks gorgeous from the charming cottages to the scenery and grounds and the food looks equally divine. I think it would be perfect for a girls trip.
Chip enjoys BBQ and his favorite is Zeb’s in Danielsville GA. Campton Restaurant, right up the road from us, has been a family favorite since he was a child. Their caramel pie is the best!
Our family loves a good hike and the North Georgia mountains have so much to offer. Mt Yonah is challenging yet rewarding. Getting fudge or danishes in Helen is always a must after a long day of hiking and fishing in the refreshing trout streams.
We love the coast as well! St Simons village is a treasure. Breakfast at Palmer’s never disappoints. We like to eat right on the water at Zachary’s Riverhouse after spending all day at the beach on Jekyll Island.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Our parents deserve a huge shoutout. We wouldn’t be where we are now without their love and support. They sacrificed a lot over the years to pour into us. My Dad and Mom were teachers and Chip’s mom was as well. His Dad was in law enforcement. Each of them served their communities every day and dedicated their lives to help us and so many others. We observed an authentic commitment to their faith throughout our lives and it set the course for our lives. Our parents are living examples of servant leadership. Chip and I can only hope to emulate the way they live their lives.
Another huge shoutout goes to our children, Cade and Caroline. They have done everything from modeling to helping with setups and tear downs at Fern Creek Farm. I love working together as a family!
I have two friends who have been a constant source of encouragement! They have assisted me with setups, planning for our flower fields and even help clean up around the farm to get ready for photographers. They are steady, true friends that I know I can count on and I am very grateful for them!
Finally, I want to give a shoutout to Elizabeth Spohn with Portraits of Joy Photography. She has been a tremendous support and encouragement. She helps us with our social media, has a heart of gold and is always willing to help out at Fern Creek Farm.
Other: email@example.com (email) ferncreekfarm.as.me (scheduling)
Portraits of Joy Photography – Elizabeth Spohn