Published 8:45 am Friday, October 2, 2009

SEBRELL—Food. Friends. Politics? That’s what was offered at Bruce and Gayle Phillips’ annual harvest party last Saturday.

Saturday’s sky was overcast and it looked like rain might spoil the event, but it held off until Saturday night.

“We were very fortunate,” Phillips said. “I prayed that it wouldn’t rain.”

This is the ninth year they have hosted the event, which drew more than 200 people to their farm in Sebrell.

“Everybody got fed, but there wasn’t much left,” said Bruce Phillips of the barbecue dinners that were served.

“It started as a thank you for the people I do business with on the farm and family and friends,” he said. “We’ve been blessed and this is something to return to our friends.”

Between his two Sebrell farms, Phillips grows soybeans, corn, wheat and timber.

Local bluegrass gospel band Thunder Creek entertained guests, and pony rides were offered to children.

“It’s a time for neighbors and friends to see each other and visit,” Phillips said.

This year’s harvest party was more political than it has been in the past. Concerns over the Navy’s plans to possibly build an outlying landing field in Southampton County led Phillips to invite U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va. Phillips said that Forbes has taken the “moral high ground” and supported residents efforts to prevent the construction of an OLF.

“Forbes was invited for people to say thank you,” Phillips said. After Forbes accepted the invitation, Phillips invited members of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors and Michael Johnson, the county administrator.

Phillips also said that it’s important to note the history of the area. He said that Southampton County leads the state in the number of Century Farms, or farms that have been in use for 100 years or more. He also said that there is an effort to create a Barn Tavern Historic District, consisting of his home and others in the area. He hopes that that the historical significance of the area is taken into consideration during the OLF process.

“We also support the Navy and what it does,” Phillips said. “What they do allows us to have this dialogue.”

Donald Hasler, a longtime friend of Phillips, traveled to the get-together from his home near Roanoke.

“Bruce has been blessed and he is sharing the blessing with all his friends and neighbors,” he said.