FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 25, 2007
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
WASHINGTON COUNTY FARM JOINS STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
214-Year-Old Brookside Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.)—The Brookside Farm in Washington County has been designated as a Tennessee Century Farm, reported Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms program at the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP), which is located on the MTSU campus.
Hankins said Century Farms that predate Tennessee’s statehood in 1796 are rare, but William Walker of Wythe County, Va., established his family farm, now called Brookside, in 1793.
Located nine miles north of Jonesboro in the Blackley Creek community, the land was purchased from Robert Carson when the area was still a part of North Carolina. Walker and his wife, Susannah Graham, were married in 1787 and had three sons. On 100 acres, the family raised sheep and kept bees. Walker donated land to the community for the construction of Pleasant Grove Church and Cemetery.
In 1848, William “Billy” Walker, son of William and Susannah, acquired the property. He and his wife, Mary Brown, had nine children. During their ownership, the farm supported bees, sheep and corn. The couple is buried in Pleasant Gove Cemetery.
In 1888, the farm became the property of their daughter, Sarah Matilda, and her husband, Elbert Keys. Elbert, also a farmer in Washington County, fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. Sarah and Elbert built a house on the farm in 1903. Charles Keys and wife Minnie Osborne Keys became the owners of the land in 1916. Then, in 1948, Searle and Mary Martin Keys became the fifth-generation owners.
By 1978, Charles A. Keys, the current owner and great-great-great-great-grandfather, had acquired the farm. Today, Charles continues to manage and work the land that produces alfalfa, hay and Holstein steers. The 1903 house, a barn built before the Civil War and one constructed in 1917 remain part of this historic agricultural landscape.
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.
“The Century Farmers represent all the farm families of Tennessee,” Hankins said, “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 interview Hankins or the farm’s owners, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.