A Wayne County farm’s history is as old as our country

by | Jul 3, 2019

Not too many people can claim that their farm has been maintained in their family for more than 100 years. As a matter of fact, in North Carolina, less than 2,000 families are listed in the Century Farm Family Program, which has been around since the 1970s. In 2016, Commissioner Troxler announced a new certificate program to recognize 200-plus year old farms. To date, about three dozen farms have received Bicentennial Farm recognition. In 2020, the Century Farm Program will celebrate 50 years.

In 1772, Joshua and Huldah Davis settled in what is now Northern Wayne County. It was noted by a Patience Greene Brayton, on a tour of Quaker settlements, as she wrote in her journal about a Society of Friend’s meeting at their residence. In 1776, the first land purchase was recorded and, by his death in 1787, Joshua Davis left his five children 1,550 acres of land, a grist mill and a saw mill. The grist mill operated until the mid-1800s and the road that cuts through the Davis land is named Davis Mill Road.

Gerry Davis’ great-grandparents Zachariah Pinkney Davis and Caroline Barnes Davis with their children and grandchildren at the Davis Farm in the early 1900’s

“Five generations later, my grandfather, Stanton Davis, raised tobacco, corn and beans, plus the necessary farm animals for food,” said Gerry Davis, one of the current owners of the Davis Double Century Farm. “All breaking of the land, plowing and planting was mule-powered. When my dad, Bernice Davis, started tending the farm in the 1950’s, he continued with the planting of tobacco, corn and beans, but he graduated to a single-row tractor. He also became one of the first farmers in the state to commercially raise chickens. His pioneering endeavor resulted in his being written about in the Progressive Farmer magazine. In the early 1970’s he became a rural mail carrier and leased out his farm.”

In 2009, the land was transferred to Bernice’s children, James, Gerry, Peggy Mosely and Nora Finch. The siblings decided not to divide the farm property and created Davis Double Century Farms, LLC and, as a family, manage the timberland, lease out the cropland and ensure the next generation has a farm to inherit.

Growing up on the Davis Farm

Gerry Davis, one of the current owners of Davis Double Century Farm in Wayne County

“My earliest memories of being raised on the farm are of early mornings. The 1,800 chickens had to be fed and watered before our breakfast; and we had to be washed up, breakfast eaten, and clothes changed before the school bus picked us up about 7 a.m.,” Davis said. “Other memories included the gathering of eggs; chopping weeds out of corn with a hoe row after row after row all day long; suckering, topping, and “putting in” tobacco during the hot summer months; the excitement of the tobacco market; the fun of 4-H and the county fair; harvesting the garden and putting up corn and canning vegetables; picking strawberries and having overripe strawberry fights with my brother; eating watermelon under the shade tree; playing with my siblings and father in the cool of the evenings; picnics; and the freedom to roam the fields and woods; lying on our backs and looking at the stars on cloudless nights; being barefoot and worry free.

“Farm life roots run deep. My brother became a landscape architect, which kept him in touch with the land. I was a wildlife biologist, before becoming a minister. As a minister moving from parish to parish, the farm was the touchstone to come back to, for myself and became such for my sons.

“Every where we lived was home, but the farm is where the roots are.”

Gerry Davis

“In 2010, my wife and I purchased from a cousin 10 acres of land that adjoined the family farm. Our intent was to build our retirement home there. While those plans changed, we kept the land and Joshua, my oldest son, raises his garden there. Jarrod, the youngest son and a United Methodist pastor in Sanford, works with churches to establish church gardens to help feed to the hungry in local settings. Farm life roots run deep, even to the next generation. ”

About the Century Farm Program

The N.C. Century Farm Program is a recognition program run by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. While there are no tax breaks or incentives for being part of the program, you can be proud of your family’s agricultural heritage when you display your certificate and road sign.

To be eligible for Century Farms, a farm must have had continuous ownership by a family for 100 years or more. To qualify for the Bicentennial Farm program, it must be in continued family ownership for 200 years are more. This ownership can be determined from an abstract from a title or original records such as the original deed or land patents. In some cases, other authentic land records are acceptable. Contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Public Affairs office at 919-707-3002 if you have further questions.