FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 16, 2008
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
STATE PROGRAM RECOGNIZES GRAINGER COUNTY FARM FOR CONTRIBUTIONS
111-Year-Old Roach Farm is County’s Newest Century Farm, Hankins Reports
(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.)— The Roach Farm in Grainger 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, which is located on the MTSU campus.
Related to its history, as the 19th century came to a close, John Spoon purchased 27 acres in Grainger County in 1897, paying $194.50 for the parcel of land. The family indicated that John owned considerable acreage in the Central Point community and passed it on to his six children. Born in 1842, John served in the 4th Tennessee Calvary Company C during the Civil War. He and his wife, Martha Satterfield, and their family raised wheat, corn, hay and cattle.
The next generation to own the property was Sam Spoon, who acquired the land in 1909, two years before his father’s death. His and wife Amanda had nine children. In 1913, Amanda passed away and Sam later married Susie Bridgewater. During Sam’s ownership, the farm produced wheat, oats, corn, sheep and cattle. According to the family’s records, Sam had a goose that he sold for a pound of meat, and then traded his meat for an acre of land, and soon began accumulating more land. Sam lived to be 93 years old and his family remembers that he “loved to sit on his front porch and watch his cattle.”
In 1927, Claude Spoon and his wife Ella Hodge purchased some of the property from his father and became the third generation to own the land. Claude and Ella children were Hazel, Helen and Claude Jr. Under their ownership, they made many improvements to the farmhouse such as putting a cinderblock foundation underneath, adding more rooms and putting in wooden floors, walls and new ceilings. The family did not have electricity until 1953 and Ella cooked on a wooden stove all her life. They raised cattle, swine and chickens, and Ella took her eggs to the store to trade for meal, sugar, coffee and other goods. Claude died in 1957 and the farm passed to Ella.
Only a few short years later, in 1959, Ella split the farm into two tracts and gave them to her two daughters, Helen and Hazel. Hazel, married briefly to Clinton Roach, had one son, Martin. Hazel and Martin lived with her parents on that farm. Helen, who did not marry, was very active in the farm’s work and management as well. Helen, who stripped most of the tobacco by herself, raised potatoes, Irish and sweet, cornfield peas, and had “lots of chickens and cats,” according to the family’s records. The sisters loved the farm and enjoyed having friends, neighbors, and family visit.
In 1991, Helen’s health deteriorated and she passed her part of the land to her nephew, Martin. The sisters, always close, died within seven months of one another. When Hazel died in 1998, she bequeathed her acreage to her son. Today, Martin and wife Brenda Lawrence Roach own the property, where they have lived on since the 1960s. Martin and Brenda’s children are Robin, Mark and Jamie.
The owners report that Mark seems to have his great-aunt Helen’s love of growing vegetables and raising animals, including chickens. Active in the 4-H when in high school, he and his family live on the farm. Robin and her husband, Gary Yardley, also live on the farm. Jamie has worked on the farm since high school. Although employed by Ross Meter Co., he handles most of farm workload with his father and also lives on the farm.
The Roach family has worked hard and maintained their acreage while also making many improvements to the farm over the years such as putting up new barbed-wire fences all around the borders and purchasing a bush hog to help them keep their fields clean.
“They recently added two more ponds and a new water-tank system,” Hankins noted. Also, they run around 40 head of cattle, and while Martin manages the farm that he has lived on since a child, he also pastors Flat Gap Baptist Church in New Market.
“Martin and Brenda are retired from their ‘off-the-farm jobs’ and enjoy an active life on what is truly a family farming enterprise,” she added.
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 CHP 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 began the Tennessee Century Farm Program in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial. Today, the TDA provides a metal outdoor sign denoting 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 the farm’s owners or request jpegs for editorial use, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.