FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec. 5, 2008
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
STATE PROGRAM RECOGNIZES 2 ROBERTSON COUNTY FARMS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS
Yates Farms Designated as County’s Newest Tennessee Century Farms
(MURFREESBORO)—Two Robertson County farms, the Yates Cave Farm and the Ernest Yates Farm, descended from the same founders and recently were designated as Tennessee Century Farms, reported Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms program at the Center for Historic Preservation, which is located on the MTSU campus.
• More than 102 years ago, Walton Yates and wife Lucy Groves Yates founded a 91-acre farm near the Cross Plains community, the Yates Cave Farm. The couple had four children—Alice, Sowell, Inez and Paul—and the family grew tobacco, corn and wheat and raised hogs and dairy cattle.
Located farm was located near the site of Yates Cave, a place that served as a favorite summertime recreation and community-gathering place because of its cool shade from the hot summer days. Many church and family reunions were held on the grounds in front of the cave’s entrance, and people came from all around the country to visit and explore the cave.
In the 1930s, Walton Yates built a large room with a concrete floor and electric lights onto the side of the cave for people to use for dinners and other special occasions. Yates also installed electric lights in the cave and offered boat rides into the previously dark interior. After Walton died in 1937, his son and his wife Ruth continued to welcome friends and relatives to the cave.
In 1942, the founder’s son, Sowell J. Yates Sr., became the farm’s owner. He and his wife Ruth Neely Yates were the parents of Sowell “Jeff” Jr., Mary Alice, Ernest and Stephen. Sowell, Ruth and their family raised many of the same crops and added soybeans. Fox hunting was a sport enjoyed in Cross Plain from the 1940s through the 1960s. Sowell Yates raised foxhounds and was a professional judge of the breed. Also for many years, on the first day of dove season, the Yates Farm served as host for its annual dove hunt and picnic at the cave.
The current owner of the property is Sowell “Jeff” Yates Jr., who acquired the property in 1983. Today, Sowell manages and works the land that yields tobacco, corn, wheat, soybeans and cattle. The family reports that a tobacco barn that is used for dark fired tobacco, a part of a log barn and a hay and livestock barn are some of the outbuildings. The cave and the large room that was constructed for gathering remain, but the family reports that time and storms have worn away some of the wooden structures near the cave.
• The Ernest Yates Farm is a parcel of the original farmstead founded by Walton and Lucy Yates in 1906 and follows the same line of ownership until 1983, when Ernest, the son of Sowell and Ruth Yates, and his wife, Maria, acquired 34 acres. They are the parents of four daughters, Candace, Alisha, Maresa and Courtney.
Ernest’s brother, Sowell J. Yates Jr., who cultivates hay and corn, works the land. Their sister, Mary Alice, lives on a part of the farm while their brother, Stephen, owns a separate tract that was purchased by Walton Yates in 1919.
“With the addition of the Yates Farms, Robertson County has 34 certified Century Farms,” Hankins noted.
About the Century Farms Program
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 farms’ owners or request jpegs of the farms, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.