GFB News Magazine
Georgia Centennial Farm Program honors farm heritage
by Jennifer Whittaker
Editor, Georgia Farm Bureau News
Posted on November 21, 2023 8:42 PM
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Georgia Centennial Farm Awards program, which honors farms that have been operating 100 years or more. The program began with Georgia Farm Bureau joining forces with other state agencies in 1993 to offer a way to identify and recognize farm families who had been farming for 100 years or more.
More than 620 farms have been recognized. This year, another 13 were celebrated during a ceremony held Oct. 11 at the Georgia National Fair.
“Thank you for taking care of your farms so your children and grandchildren will have somewhere to come back home to. Thank you for keeping your farms producing for over a hundred years or more,” Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall said while speaking at the 2023 Georgia Centennial Family Farm ceremony. “Georgia Farm Bureau works representing family farms like yours at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta and the U.S. Capitol in D.C., so y’all can concentrate on farming. Most of you are Farm Bureau members, but if you’re not, I encourage you to join our organization.”
Recipients of the 2023 Centennial Family Farm Award are:
Boggy Branch Farm, Bulloch County
L & M Farms, Bulloch County
Teloga Springs Farm, Chattooga County
Stone Family Farm, Cook County
Ash Farms, Effingham County
The Threatte Farm at Bunton Place, Evans County
Price Family Farm, Franklin County
J.B. Gay & Son, Jenkins County
R. E. Roberts Farm, Jones County
Ganas Farm, Lanier County
White Family Barn Farm, Lumpkin County
Rolling D Farms, LLC, Murray County
Fulghum-Beusse Farms, Wilcox County
Farms may be recognized with one of three awards. The Centennial Family Farm Award recognizes farms owned by members of the same family for 100 years or more. The Centennial Heritage Family Farm Award honors farms owned by the same family for 100 years or more that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The Centennial Farm Award does not require continual family ownership, but farms must be at least 100 years old and listed in the NRHP.
“This is a big day to recognize families that have given so much to our state. The fact that your farms have been in operation for at least 100 years, and in many cases more, is remarkable,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said while speaking at the Georgia Centennial Farm ceremony.
This program is administered by the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs with support from Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter and UGA Extension.
One farm’s story
John B. Gay inherited his family’s Jenkins County farm in 1992 when his father, Emerson, died. His father and mother, Joyce, who still lives on the farm, raised John B. along with his brother, Carroll, and sister, Kathy Gay Bacon, on the farm that’s been in the family since at least 1869.
Today, John B. and his wife, Jean, raise beef cattle, hogs, peanuts, cotton and corn. The farm included a herd of dairy cows, which his parents started, until 2007. In the 1970s and ‘80s Emerson and Joyce had layer houses with hens that laid table eggs.
Joyce, who taught school before marrying Emerson and starting a family, helped when needed in the layer houses.
“There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into this farm over the generations,” John. B said. “We are proud we’ve been able to keep it in the family this long and hope we can keep it another 100 years.”
John B. and Jean’s sons – Branham and Tiller – both have off-farm jobs but teamed up in 2019 to start a beef cattle operation on the farm that the family maintains at over 100 head.
Branham did the family research to apply for the Centennial Family Farm award.
The location of the family’s farm hasn’t changed through the years, but the name of the county where it is located has as the state of Georgia created new counties from existing ones. In 1869 the farm was in Bulloch County. Then, the farm was placed in Emanuel County until it became Jenkins County in the early 1900s.
“The land is currently in Jenkins County, which is reflected on the 1915 deeds, but was considered Emanuel County in the 1905 deeds. The oldest land deed we were able to find in the Emanuel County courthouse was from 1869 with a transfer from father to son, so we know it goes back prior to that,” Branham said. “However, the land was in what was considered Bulloch County prior to the 1869 deed. We’ve got to do more research at the Bulloch County courthouse to determine the actual start date [of the farm].”
The one thing that hasn’t changed for the Gay family is their love of the land and their determination to continue farming.
Want to nominate a farm?
Anyone interested in nominating a farm for recognition should visit www.gfb.ag/centennialfarmsapply for more information or to download an application or contact email@example.com. The postmark deadline for applications is May 1 of each year. Qualifying farms are recognized each October during a ceremony held at the Georgia National Fair.
Georgia EMC Representative Andy Paul, front row far left, & UGA Extension’s Stephanie Hollifield front row, second from left, joined Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, Georgia Dept. of Community Affairs Commissioner Chris Nunn & Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall, center left to right, in celebrating the 2023 recipients of the Georgia Centennial Family Farm Award during a reception held Oct. 11 at the Georgia National Fair. Georgia EMC, UGA Extension, the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Historic Preservation Division, Georgia National Fair & Georgia Farm Bureau sponsor the awards program that annually recognizes farms for operating for at least 100 years while remaining in the same family. / Photo by Nick Vassy, Ga. Dept. of Agriculture