FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 25, 2009
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
McMINN COUNTY FARM JOINS RANKS OF STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
Robert and Nettie Page Simpson Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.)—The Saddle Cave Farm in McMinn 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.
Located 10 miles from Athens, the Saddle Cave Farm was founded by John Marion Kyker in 1899. The inspiration for the farm’s name came from a cave located on the farm that resembles a saddle.
Married to Martha Ann “Mattie” Bohannon Kyker, the couple had two children, Virgil and Roxie Mae. On about 100 acres, the family grew corn, wheat and sorghum cane and their livestock included hogs, sheep, goats and cattle, as well as poultry.
During the early 1900s, the Kyker Reunion began taking place on the farm. The family gathered for a potluck dinner and visiting near a spring at the head of what is known as Kyker Branch, which flows through the farm and eventually feeds Little Sewee Creek. The family has reported that during John’s lifetime, there was a springhouse that kept food cool during the hot summer months. Inside the spring house, about 20 or more gallon sized crocks were lined up and “filled with cider or vinegar made on the farm.”
A giant oak tree marks the spot of the reunions that are now held in Sweetwater. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps came to the farm and planted pine trees, dug ditches and made various improvements on the farm. Family members recall that CCC workers brought large containers of soup to eat during their lunch breaks. In 1947, John passed away and his widow, Martha, moved in with her daughter, Roxie, who lived on the farm.
In 1962, John and Mattie’s daughter, Roxie Mae Kyker Humphreys, became the second generation to own the farm. Roxie married Guy Jackson Humphreys and they had two children, Anna Mae Humphreys and Marion Jackson Humphreys.
During their ownership, the farm produced tobacco, cattle, hogs and sugarcane. According to the family’s records, a molasses mill was moved from Virgil Kyker’s farm and assembled near the spring during Roxie and G. J.’ s ownership. Marion said he remembers that he was taught how to make molasses by his Uncle Virgil. The family would grind the cane and cook the juice for nearby neighbors and others who brought their cane to the mill.
On Feb. 19, 1982, Roxie deeded the land to her son, Marion, who is the current owner of the land. Today, Marion and his wife work the land with the help of their children, Linda Nichols, Ronnie Humphreys and Gail Humphreys. They have a vegetable garden and raise cattle.
The original farmhouse and barn still stand and are in use. The logs and lumber for the barn were hand-hewn and parts were built with wooden pegs instead of nails. Under the tin roof, some single oak boards span the entire length of the barn. In addition to the barn, the family reported that there is an old turkey house and a chicken house that are now used for storage.
The farm also has a family cemetery where the founder, his wife and other Kyker relatives are buried. Officially registered with the McMinn County Cemetery Registry, the cemetery has been maintained and is sometimes referred to as the old Goddard Cemetery. According to tradition, the Goddard’s were settlers moving through the area when a deadly disease spread through the group. Several members of the Goddard party were believed to have died and were buried at this location. The family noted that a number of gravesites marked only by rocks preserve the memory of the deceased.
Hankins said the Saddle Cave Farm, now celebrating 110 years in the same family, is the 40th Century Farm to be certified in McMinn County.
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 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, 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 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 request an interview with the farm’s current owners, please contact Caneta Hankins at 615-898-2947.