For Release: April 5, 2012
Contact: Caneta Hankins, Center for Historic Preservation, 615-898-2947
DYER COUNTY FARM JOINS RANKS OF STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
Bell Farms Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
MURFREESBORO— Bell Farms, located in Dyer 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 at MTSU.
The Century Farms Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have owned and kept family land in continuous agricultural production for at least 100 years.
T.W. Jones gave his daughter, Betty Elizabeth, a 100-plus acre farm in Dyer County in 1877. Betty’s spouse was W.T. Walker, and they were the parents of six children. Thomas Walker inherited the farm in 1888 when his mother died. In addition to raising corn, cotton and livestock, Thomas, or “Mr. Tommy,” was one of the first dairymen in Dyer County and brought in Holsteins to mix with his Jerseys. He was known for breeding and raising horses by 1900, as was R. A. Bell, also of Dyer County and an ancestor of the current owner. Married to Jimmie Olive Coffman, the Bells were the parents of four children. Walker owned and worked the farm for nearly 80 years until his death in 1966. He left the farm to his daughter, Annie Louise Walker. She never married, and though she owned the farm for the next 35 years, Tom Bell rented and worked the farm during those years. At her death in 2002, Annie Louise left the farm to two of her nephews, Tommy and Larry Walker.
Tom Bell, a great grandson of Betty and W. T. Walker, purchased the farm from Tommy and Larry Walker in 2002. Tom is married to Helen Cherry Bell, and they are the parents of two children, Sandy Bell Baker and W. Tom Bell. Three generations of the family live on the farm today, raising corn, cotton and cattle. Since 1959, the family has hosted school groups from the county and city systems. The students tour the farm, visit a variety of animals, including llamas, learn about crops, and take hay rides on a trailer pulled by a restored John Deere tractor. Tom and Helen continue this agricultural education outreach program with the assistance of their daughter, Sandy, assistant superintendent of the Dyersburg City Schools, and her children, Ashley and Todd. Tom Bell also is the owner of the Tom Bell Century Farm established by R. A. Bell in 1906.
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 Farms Program.
For more information about the Century Farms Program, please visit www.tncenturyfarms.org. The Center for Historic Preservation also may be contacted at Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132 or 615-898-2947.
• ATTENTION, MEDIA: To interview the farm’s owner or request jpegs of the farm for editorial use, please contact the CHP at 615-898-2947.
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