The first peaches shipped by airline at Dickey Farms in Musella, Georgia

The first peaches shipped by airline at Dickey Farms in Musella, Georgia

Thankful for the {Georgia} Farmers

As Thanksgiving rolls around and we gather around the table with friends and family, there's one thing everybody is excited about: the food!

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

As we share laughter, memories and thanks around the Thanksgiving table today, let's not forget to thank the farmers!

Here are four of the oldest farms in Georgia that have been feeding Georgians since 1812:

WATERMELON CREEK VINEYARD

Founded in 1812

Watermelon Creek Vineyard began on the banks of Watermelon Creek in 1812. The Hopkin Padgett family settled and began a legacy that forged its influence on agriculture, business and spiritual life in Tattnall County for more than 150 years.

Charles Columbus (C.C.) Padgett, born in 1869
Charles Columbus (C.C.) Padgett, born in 1869

The third generation farmer, C.C. Padgett, also called "Uncle Lum," continued to prosper by expanding the pine tree business into turpentine, lumber and barrel making. He was also the postmaster of Tison and owned a Naval store on the property until his death in 1947.

Tasting room at Watermelon Creek Vineyard in Glennville, Georgia
Tasting room at Watermelon Creek Vineyard in Glennville, Georgia

Between 1958 and 2004, the once-vibrant crossroads community was almost lost forever, but luckily, family members Charles and Deborah Tillman came in to save the property. "We got into winemaking because it gives us a chance to have an audience and tell the story of the area. We want to share this enchanted corner and tranquility with others who have a common interest in history," said Charles.

He and Deborah built a winery that honored as well as memorialized the nine generations of Padgetts that had occupied the land where Watermelon Creek vineyard now resides.

In the vineyards at Watermelon Creek in Glennville, Georgia
In the vineyards at Watermelon Creek in Glennville, Georgia

Today, Watermelon Creek Vineyard is a full-service Georgia farm winery with a Tasting Room and Vineyard Store. The 15-acre site includes many of the original buildings including: The Naval store; the Padgett family one-room log cabin, which is now the home's kitchen; the ironing cabin; syrup cabin and more.

MITCHAM FARM

Founded in 1848

Mitcham Farm has been in operation through five generations and well over 100 years. In 1848, the Mitcham's great-grandfather, Henry James Boggus and his wife, Molly, settled in Newton County on 180 acres. His son, Thomas Grover Boggus, made the farm self-sustainable and because of this, the farm was well-adapted to the production of crops and cotton.

Thomas Boggus with his Prize Jersey Cow at Mitcham Farm in Oxford, Georgia
Thomas Boggus with his Prize Jersey Cow at Mitcham Farm in Oxford, Georgia

During the 1920s, great-grandfather Boggus had pure Barred Rock chickens, a small herd of hogs and Jersey cattle. He sold enough butter, eggs, sausage, cowpeas, corn and other products to pay for all the supplies he needed to run the farm.

Myron Boggus (Mother of Tommy Mitcham) in her 4-H Tomato Patch
Myron Boggus (Mother of Tommy Mitcham) in her 4-H Tomato Patch

Today, the farm is owned and operated by Tommy Mitcham, great-grandson of Henry James Boggus, and his two sons, Kevin and Keith. In October 2000, the farm was recognized as a Centennial Family Farm by the State of Georgia for its contribution to Georgia's agriculture heritage. Visit Mitcham Farm and pick your own pumpkins, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries right from the field! At their farm stand, they also sell more items like homemade strawberry ice cream, slushies, jam, local honey, preserves, salsas, fresh produce and more.

DICKEY FARMS

Founded in 1880

The Atlanta and Hawkinsville railroad was built through Middle Georgia in the mid-1890s and built sidetracks along the way. The railroad opened the doors to travel, transportation of products and business opportunities. This area in Crawford County became known as Musella.

Dickey Farms began when Robert Lee Dickey moved to this area from the other side of Crawford County where the Dickey family had been farming since the 1840s. With the encouragement and help of his father-in-law, RL purchased land and planted his first Elberta variety peach trees in 1897. Three years later as his first peach crop was being harvested, he built a packinghouse and opened a general store in Musella at age 30. That was just the second of his many entrepreneurial operations.

One of the original packinghouse crews at Dickey Farms
One of the original packinghouse crews at Dickey Farms

Many other businesses developed – cotton gin, churches, warehouses, blacksmith shop, undertaker – all of which RL was a part of. During the depression, RL continued to purchase land and expand his acreage. He built his third packinghouse in 1936 along the side tracks of the railroad.

RL was very innovative with his equipment and the peach varieties. In fact, he was one of the first peach growers to install a hydrocooler in the 1950s. This packinghouse is still in operation today having been mechanized over the years with new machinery including an electronic sizer.

Bob Dickey II of Dickey Farms in Musella, Georgia
Bob Dickey II of Dickey Farms in Musella, Georgia

RL's grandson, Robert "Bob" Lee Dickey II, joined the farm in 1949 and is still active in the business at age 89. He tells many stories about working at the packinghouse as a youngster. One of his favorite stories was the time he built a sundial in the attic of the packinghouse. At age 6, he was assigned the job of building wooden peach crates. As any young child would naturally do, Bob would ask what time it was every few hours because he was getting hungry. One day he asked the time as usual and then hammered a nail where the sun was shining. At the end of the day he had a sundial. The next day his grandfather asked, "Why are you not asking the time all day?" Bob proudly showed him his sundial and never had to worry again about missing lunch at his grandmother’s house again!

Mr. RL, Mr. Wilmer, Bob and his brother Dick – three generations at Dickey Farms in Musell, Georgia
Mr. RL, Mr. Wilmer, Bob and his brother Dick – three generations at Dickey Farms in Musell, Georgia

Bob's son, Robert Lee Dickey III, came back to the farm after graduating from the University of Georgia in 1976 and presently lives in the house his grandfather built at the turn of the century. His son and the fifth generation, Robert “Lee” Dickey IV, runs and operates Dickey Farms now.

Robert Lee Dickey's Cadillac, bought in Macon in 1949, in front of the General Store in Musella today.
Robert Lee Dickey's Cadillac, bought in Macon in 1949, in front of the General Store in Musella today.

Today, you can still step back in time when you visit the farm and enjoy some of their delicious peach ice cream while rocking on the porch.

Ice cream at Dickey Farms in Musella, Georgia. Photo credit: @hangryatl, IG
Ice cream at Dickey Farms in Musella, Georgia. Photo credit: @hangryatl, IG

JAEMOR FARMS

Founded in 1912

The Echols family at Jaemor Farms has been harvesting crops from their land for over 105 years. The family began farming cotton and a few peach trees in 1912. After a few years of growing this "king" row crop, they switched their focus to those few peach trees and began selling peaches on the side of Old Cornelia Highway.

Jaemor Farms in 1985
Jaemor Farms in 1985

Jimmy Echols has grown peaches his entire life, a farming tradition started by his grandfather. The original peach shed still sits outside his house on Old Cornelia Highway.

The first peach stand outside of Jimmy Echols' house at Jaemor Farms in Alto, Georgia
The first peach stand outside of Jimmy Echols' house at Jaemor Farms in Alto, Georgia

In 1965, despite warnings from fellow farmers, Jimmy added a few acres onto his family's land. Although many thought this was a terrible idea, it just so happened that in 1981, a four-lane highway was built next to this "newer" piece of land and the foot traffic came with it. The Echols opened on their first produce stand on what is now Highway 365.

Once the third generation of Echols family members had inherited their portions of the original 1912 farm, there were two peach stands in Lula: Echols Orchards and Echols Peaches. Therefore, when the market on the hill opened, the Echols renamed their portion of the family farm as Jaemor Farms. J.A.E.M.O.R. combines all of the family names. 

Today, Jaemor Farms has 500 acres of land in production. Jarl (son) and Drew (grandson) work daily in the fields, growing peaches, strawberries, blackberries, apples, pumpkins and other fruits and vegetables.

Drew and Daphne Echols (now Daphne Echols Crumley) sitting in one of Jaemor Farms' first pumpkin harvests
Drew and Daphne Echols (now Daphne Echols Crumley) sitting in one of Jaemor Farms' first pumpkin harvests

Other family members run the markets and bakery: Jim (Pop), Valvoreth (Nanny), Judah (son), Daphne (granddaughter, Commerce market), Jeremy (grandson), Beth (daughter-in-law), Rick (grandson-in-law), Steve (cousin), Stephanie (cousin) ... just to name a few.

Jaemor Farms' Jim Echols and his great-granddaughter, Hadleigh
Jaemor Farms' Jim Echols and his great-granddaughter, Hadleigh

The farm now sees more than 1,000,000 customers annually. You can visit to go pick your own veggies, shop at the farmers markets or attend one of their annual festivals.

Pumpkins at Jaemor Farms in Alto, Georgia
Pumpkins at Jaemor Farms in Alto, Georgia

 

PIN THIS!

Published: November 2019
Written by: Parker Whidby