Egyptian Arabian horses, including several national champions, once proudly pranced inside the heated, indoor show ring at Freeland Farm.
After Thursday's sale of the 25-acre property, the next animals to strut their stuff there might be pigs.
Perfectly groomed, expertly bred, pretty-as-a-picture ... pigs.
The Roanoke property, formerly owned by the late Dick Freeland, local Pizza Hut franchise owner, sold at auction for $675,000.
Business partners Travis Platt and Robert “Hue” Andrews and their wives placed the winning bid. They raise show pigs, which are sold nationwide to the parents of 4-H members, who raise and show them in hopes of winning scholarships and cash prizes.
Platt, the only one of the four who attended the auction, declined to say whether the Roanoke property at 10127 Kress Road will be used for that purpose or another, however.
Platt Showpigs, which is also in Roanoke, apparently is successful. Platt, whose interest in the industry began with his own 4-H pig, said he has spent up to $380,000 for one boar that will produce semen for artificial insemination.
“It's just like they show dogs, sheep, cattle and goats,” he said of showing pigs to be judged on their physical appearance rather than their tastiness. “It's a beauty pageant for animals.”
Lisa Anne Schrader, who conducted the auction for Reecer Properties, said Freeland had invested almost $5 million in the immaculate property, which includes a pond, 47 horse stalls and state-of-art horse-breeding facilities.
After the auction, Lynn Reecer said, “Someone got a real good deal, didn't they?”
Freeland, who died five years ago last month, used his wealth to indulge his passion for horses.
“It was what I would call his man cave,” Schrader said while leading a tour of the 47 stalls made of knotted pine boards and lined with rubberized flooring. “Everything he did was over-the-top and luxurious.”
The operation housed up to 200 horses at one time and employed up to 40 workers, including a full-time caretaker and a full-time Brazilian veterinarian, who specialized in in vitro fertilization. The caretaker and vet lived in a home on the property.
Reecer Properties, which has launched a Luxury Auction division, marketed the property for various uses because few people can afford to breed horses, Schrader said.
“I have people looking at it to do weddings, corporate meetings and an agricultural vocational school,” she said, adding that people in seven states had expressed interest.
“We've had to think outside the box with this because horses don't always make money,” Schrader added. “But what can make money (in the space)?”
In the end, six bidders registered for the auction, which finally drew bids when Schrader lowered her asking price to $200,000, down from $500,000.
From there, the bidding was brisk, with at least three people participating, including a party making offers by phone from Atlanta.
Amanda Hadley, who used to provide insurance coverage on the property, was among the bidders.
“I wasn't too sad” not to win the auction, she said afterward.
The Hadleys recently bought another property before realizing the Freeland Farm was coming up for auction. They also have their eye on another 100 acres for sale nearby.
Tracie Crowell also attended the auction. He owns six horses at Winding Pines Farm, which is near the former Freeland property.
“Dick's got a big place here,” Crowell said of his former neighbor. “It's going to be a lot to handle. The monthly operating expenses are a big concern.”
The living quarters are also substandard, in Crowell's opinion – even though the owners remodeled them before the auction.
“The house doesn't compare to the facilities, is the problem,” he said. “It's kind of the Achilles' heel of the property.”
After the deal was done, Dick Freeland's son Todd congratulated Platt, the new owner.
Todd Freeland agreed that the occasion was a little bittersweet. But the retired owner of Audio Visual Lifestyles clarified that it wasn't the farm but family that really meant the most to him.
“I was not a horse person,” he said. “I enjoyed the fact that Dad enjoyed it – because it was his thing.”