I am often met with surprise that I am “into this farming stuff.” I am not sure if I should take this as a compliment or an insult. However, I will be the first to admit my tastes and hobbies are about as varied as they can be. Perhaps I do not look like or talk like what most people identify as a “farm girl.” Like most other women, I enjoy little spoils like a pedicure, however rare they may be, but I also thoroughly enjoy the feeling of the earth underneath my bare feet. While I have always harbored an intense passion for animals, it has been in recent years, as I have completed my transition into adulthood, I have discovered this passion for farming and homesteading.
One big reason I attribute this passion to, is the simple truth that farming blood courses through my veins. Before Chapel Hill was consumed with shopping centers, banks and paved roads; it was a thriving, rural community. The land that University Mall sits on, is the original home of my family’s farming beginnings. Parking lots and trim boutiques have now replaced the stomping grounds of my Daddy’s childhood.
Below are excerpts from an article written by the local paper years ago…
“Since the 1960′s, agrarian landscapes that once prevailed around Chapel Hill have given way to urbanization. One example is the replacement of the former Conner dairy farm. The owner of the dairy farm, Luke Conner (1891-1974), was born and raised in Vermont, graduated from University of Vermont in 1917 and married Alice Briggs (1894-1975).
One a trip north, Conner stopped in Chapel Hill, liked the area and in 1929 bought 254 acres of farmland west of town. A 10 room house costing $5000 was built on high ground on the Conner land. The Conners were no sooner settled in their new home, than the Depression started. Conner managed to stay afloat financially during the following lean years by the sale of timber from his land, milk from his dairy and 60 acres of low lying land to a neighbor.
Large crops of hay and corn grown there fed a herd of 20 dairy cows, each named for a movie star. In 1940, Conner built a large red barn that became a local landmark.
The first segment of the two lane US 15-501 bypass cut through his farm in 1952-53. That inconvenience along with his older age and lack of farm help contributed to Conner’s decision to retire from farming.
By 1969 the Conner farm buildings and cow herd were gone and the Conners were in a nursing home.” (article written by Doug Eyre)
This article speaks volumes to my simple, farming heart. I am extremely proud of the back breaking work and creativity my Great Grandfather showed through those terrible years of the Great Depression. He had a true self-reliant homestead. I would have loved to meet him and walk the acres of his farm, quietly relishing in all of his stories of years past and tricks of the trade.
I love hearing my grandparents’ and my Daddy’s stories of the movie star named cows, homemade butter and hot summer days spent working hard. I can only imagine the quiet heartbreak and hopefully peace, of my great grandfather as he must have walked his many acres listening to the contented moos of the cows for the last time, before coming to the decision that not only was his life beginning to face its decline, but times were irreversibly changing.
Through all the modern hustle and bustle around where my family’s farm once stood in all its simple glory, it is hard to imagine acres of rolling green pastures, a bright red barn and cows lazily grazing in the sunshine. The times I am passing through this area, I stop my truck, roll down my window, and listen as hard as I can, in hopes of hearing the almost imperceptible crunch of my great-grandfather’s boots as he made his way in the dark of early morning to milk his movie star cows.
The Conner Farm barn in all its glory.
The large Conner Farm pond where my Daddy fished as a young boy.
Another view of the Conner Farm barn.