FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 24, 2006
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
Gray Farm 18th in County to be Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
(MURFREESBORO)—The Gray Farm in Hamblen County has been designated as a Tennessee Century Farm, reports Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms program at the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP), which is located on the MTSU campus.
“This year, the farm celebrates its 100th anniversary and joins 17 other Hamblen County farms that are certified Century Farms,” Hankins said.
Regarding the land’s history, in 1906, William Cornelius “Neal” Shanks founded the farm located west of Morristown. Married to Joanna Shanks, the couple had seven children. On the 196 acres, the family produced wheat, corn, clover, hay, cattle, horses, chickens, hogs and mules.
According to the family’s history, Shanks owned and operated a set of livestock scales that were used by farmers in the community to weigh their livestock and grain. Neal had a livestock barn was built on the property. The family remembers that the two men who built it walked 15 miles each day and were paid $1 a day for their labor and time. Shanks bought and paid for this farm by buying and selling mules, traveling throughout North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee in his trade.
Tilda Shanks Hilton, G. L. Shanks, Lyda S. Peoples and Cora S. Gray, all children of William and Joanna, became the next generation of owners. The third-generation owner listed is Cora Shanks Gray and husband J. D. Gray, who acquired a parcel of the original farm in 1944. Cora and J. D. had five children, Leah, Doyal, J. D. Jr., James Thomas and Donald W. Gray. The family raised hay, wheat, oats, corn, pasture, cattle, hogs and chickens.
Over the years, Donald W. Gray, grandson of the founders, acquired much of the original farm. Along with wife Edna and their two sons, Don and Edgar, the family raises tobacco, hay, small grain, corn and Black Angus cattle. Donald Gray, now in his 80s, lives on the farm where he was born. In a Nov. 21, 1983, feature article in the Citizen Tribune, Donald Gray said, “I have farmed all my life and I love it.”
Ruth Gray, the wife of Doyal, and Lelia, the wife of J. D. Gray Jr., continue to own portions of the original farmstead as well.
The Century Farm Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have continuously owned, and kept in production, family land for at least 100 years. Since 1984, the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU has been a leader in the important work of documenting Tennessee’s agricultural heritage and history through the Tennessee Century Farm Program, and continues to administer this program.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) began the Tennessee Century Farm Program in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial. Today, the TDA
provides a metal outdoor sign noting either 100, 150 or 200 years of “continuous agricultural production” to Century Farm families.
To be considered for eligibility, a farm must be owned by the same family for at least 100 years; must produce $1,000 revenue annually; must have at least 10 acres of the original farm; and one owner must be a resident of Tennessee. There are more than 1,000 Century Farms across the state and all 95 counties are represented.
“The Century Farmers represent all the farm families of Tennessee,” Hankins says, “and their contributions to the economy, and to the social, cultural and agrarian vitality of the state, both past and present, is immeasurable. Each farm is a Tennessee treasure.”
For more information about the Century Farms Program, please visit its Web site at http://histpres.mtsu.edu/histpres. The Center for Historic Preservation also may be contacted via mail at Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132, or by telephone at 615-898-2947.
• ATTENTION, MEDIA: To request an interview with the owners of this farm or obtain jpegs of this farm for editorial use, please contact the Center for Historic Preservation at 615-898-2947.