Farm Feature Friday: White Family Farm of Grundy County, Tennessee
This week’s Farm Feature Friday spotlights Jack White, his wife Janice, and their three daughters: Lydia, Lisa, and Carol. The White family has been well established for many years in the Pelham area of Grundy County, Tennessee and is known for their lengthy history of raising quality cattle. Jack emphasizes the importance of being an active member of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association as well as becoming involved at the local/county level. Jack has served as a former Board Member for 1 year, Vice President for 3 years, and President for 2 years with the Coffee-Grundy County Cattlemen’s Association. Jack’s answers to the Farm Feature Q & A can be found below.
How long has your family been involved in raising cattle? Tell us about how it got started.
In 1855, Robert Gilbert White Sr. and Malinda Lowe established the White Family Farm that is located in Grundy County. The couple had seven children and raised corn and cattle on their 200 acres. During the Civil War, their sons Robert G. and John W. served in the Confederate Army. In addition, their son Walter White was a drummer boy and was killed at the age of 15 at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. The farm has been established as a Tennessee Century Farm having been owned and operated by the same family for 164 years.
Tell us about your farm today (breed of cattle, what are you proud of, etc.)
Through the years more land has been added to the original farm, and today I am the sixth generation White to live on and operate the current 330 acre farm. Along with my wife Janice and our three daughters Lydia, Lisa and Carol, we have a commercial cow calf operation of 65 head of Angus and Angus/Hereford cross. Even though our daughters are earning a living outside of the farm, they remain involved in the seasonal roundup and vaccinations which had a direct influence on their choice of careers; Lydia an orthopedic surgeon, Lisa a breast cancer surgeon, and Carol a pharmacist.
What was your favorite part about growing up on the farm? What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?
My favorite part about growing up on the farm is working side by side with different generations of family members, sharing the good times and the hard times and the pride of accomplishment from the results of all your hard work while realizing that it would not have been possible without the help and the blessings of the Good Lord. I especially enjoy working with cattle and the peace I get from driving through the herd and seeing the new crop of baby calves.
What have been some of the trials you or your family has had to overcome?
In 1919, when my father, Emmett White, was seventeen years old, he was helping build the barn that is still standing on the farm. While he was trimming one of the cedar posts, he was struck in his left eye with a piece of wood and was blind in that eye for the rest of his life. In 2000, I suffered a heart attack. Since that time, I have concentrated on operating our cow/calf operation while leasing some land for row crops.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the farm?
The freedom of choosing when and what I want to do and managing the finances of all the farm activities, in my opinion, make farming the best way of life. I wish every child could have the opportunity to grow up on a farm.
Do you have any advice for young Tennessee cattle producers about the business?
I would advise anyone going into the cattle business to get some good working facilities, establish a good herd health program, plan for use of rotational grazing, take advantage of the support of the University of Tennessee Extension Service, have a good working relationship with a local veterinarian, and develop a network of communication by joining and becoming active in the Tennessee Cattlemen's Association.
What's your favorite beef dish?
Since we raise our own beef, we enjoy all cuts of beef throughout the year, but I guess a great big juicy steak, salad, and baked potato would be my favorite.
Is there anything else you can share with us?
Starting around the spring of 1940's, my father and four other farmers purchased some land in Altamont called the Countiss Pen. All of the local cattle farmers would ride their horses to round up their individual herd of cattle, drive them the 15 miles up the Altamont mountain to free range during the summer. Then in the fall they would have another roundup to bring them back to the valley. At different times the farmers would go throughout the summer to check on their cows and to take them salt. Even though they were herded up the mountain together and roamed over several acres during the summer, the farmers' lead cows would have a bell collar and would respond to the owners call in the fall. The two weeks of herding and camping were the ultimate “man's camp out” for these farmers. This continued for several years and I was a very small boy, but I remember riding on the back of a horse with my daddy to check on our herd one year.