Weakley County Has Rich Farming History


NATIONAL AGRICULTURE WEEK - Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum recently signed a Proclamation to proclaim the week of March 20-26, 2022, as “National Agriculture Week.” This week is set aside each year to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives. National Ag Day was celebrated on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. This day encourages Americans to reflect on the important role that farm families play in maintaining a steady food supply for our nation and the role that agriculture plays in the overall economy. Mayor Bynum is pictured with members of the Weakley County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, Weakley County Farm Bureau Women, Weakley County Young Farmers, along with local Farm Bureau Insurance agents. Weakley County farm families pictured include Mike and Terri Brundige, Ronnie and Janie Yeargin, Alice Ann Yeargin, Keith and Linda Fowler, Chris Fowler, Tennessee Corn Promotion Director Carol Reed and Farm Bureau agents Jesse Bryant and James Brasfield.[/caption]

WEAKLEY COUNTY (March 22) - Established in 1823, agriculture has played an important role in the history of Weakley County. Its first row crop was corn, and by 1880, it was the state’s largest corn-producing county. The abundance in corn eventually led to an increased production of cattle and hogs. While pioneer farmers were said to engage in cotton production as soon as the land was cleared, county farmers steadily reduced the cotton acreage in the late 19th Century.

Since 1960, soybeans have taken the place of cotton in terms of agriculture production and has become the county’s leading row crop. The first tobacco crop in the county was reportedly planted in 1832. In 1980, Weakley County farmers planed 138 acres of type-22 western, dark-fired tobacco.

Sweet potatoes became a major crop by 1850 in the county (Gleason was known as the sweet potato capital, thus earning its “Tater Town” namesake.), with 45,180 bushels produced that year. In 1944, Weakley County ranked 10th in national production of sweet potatoes.

In the early settlement days of the county, farmers grew wheat, rye and oats to supply family and livestock needs. Farmers today now grow more wheat in a three-way rotation between wheat, soybeans and corn.

By the 1950s, dairying had become one of the major agricultural activities, but reportedly, pressure on pasture land as it is converted to soybean production has resulted in the decline of dairying. The county continues to be one of the top swine producers in the state.

The latest USDA Ag Census (2017, conducted every 5 years) shoed farmers in Tennessee grew and sold $3.8 billion worth of agricultural products - just over 30 percent was from the sale of cattle and poultry and nearly 30 percent from corn and soybeans.

The top five counties in terms of agricultural sales were Bedford, Weakley, Robertson, Obion and Gibson. These counties make up 19 percent of Tennessee’s total agricultural revenue. The USDA is preparing for another Ag Census this year. June 30 is the last day for farmers to sign up to participate in the Ag Census, which is set to begin November 6.

Weakley County is home to more than 30 Century Farms. The Tennessee Century Farms Programs, administered by the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) at Middle Tennessee State University, identifies, documents, and recognizes farms owned by the same family for at least 100 years. To date, nearly 1,400 farms have been certified in the state.

Century Farm listings for Weakley County include the following:

Anderson Farm: Est. 1866

Artell Bell Farm: Est. 1866

Billingsby Farm: Est. 1840

Bragg Farm: Est. 1849

Brock Farm: Est. 1852

Carlton: Est. 1844

Collier Farm: Est. 1867

Dennis Davis Farm: Est. 1901

Dillard Brooks Farm: Est. 1863

Ervin: Est. 1885

Freeman and Sons’ Farm: Est. 1873

Freeman Farms: Est. 1866

Freeman Farms (father & son): Est. 1866

Harmsworth Farm: Est. 1900

Isaac Oliver Farm: Est. 1829

J.B. Nanney Farm: Est. 1876

Kennedy Farm: Est. 1866

Kennedy Ridge: Est. 1866

Mansfield Farm: Est. 1910

McNatt Farm: Est. 1857

Oliver Brothers Farm: Est. 1908

Pemberton Farm: Est. 1874

Rea Farms: Est. 1919

Reed’s Angus Farm: Est. 1854

Rose Hill Farm: Est. 1850

Rowlett Farm: Est. 1851

Ruthville Farm: Est. 1852

Silver Gate Farms: Est. 1851

Sims Farms: Est. 1920

Smith-Wright Farm: Est. 1909

Snider: Est. 1854

Stow Farm

Williams Family Farms: Est. 1903

Yeargin Farm: Est. 1898.

To read more about the impact of agriculture on Weakley County and families that are committed to farming, see Pages 1B and 4B of today’s issue.