Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Benny Fountain, of Tarkil Branch Farm, is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!
This Halloween, take a step back in time by visiting Tarkil Branch Farm’s Homestead Museum. Since 1912, Benny Fountain’s family has been farming the same land in Beulaville. The land was owned by Willie Hunter, Fountain’s maternal grandfather, but in 1926, eighty-two acres of Hunter’s land was sold to David Fountain, Benny’s father. This land brought Benny’s parents together and has been home to the Fountain family ever since.
The family grew tobacco and raised cows and hogs throughout Benny’s childhood. The family also operated a mercantile business, selling farm supplies to the public. Today, the Fountain family owns 375 acres of farmland, growing soybeans and sorghum, while also raising grass-fed beef. Benny knew from the time he was a school student in Chinquipin that he wanted to be involved in agriculture. “I loved it, and that’s what I always wanted to do,” he said.
Although Benny worked for Dupont for 35 years, he always made time to tend to the family farm. He gained complete control of the farm in 1982 following the death of his father. Benny had a larger vision for the farm, wanting to educate the community while also providing a food source. Thus, Tarkil Branch Farm’s Homestead Museum opened in 2003.
The museum is made up of 12 buildings, ranging from a functioning grist mill to a furnished 1830s home. Benny likes to feature functioning items in the museum, allowing him to demonstrate the techniques of the past to present-day visitors. When asked if he had a favorite piece in the museum, Benny mentioned pieces his great-grandfather had built: a pie safe, a table and a 3-drawer chest. Each piece is cherished by Benny, but the chest is his ultimate favorite. It is painted in green milk paint and features a decorative design on the backside.
Along with the museum, Benny enjoys working with his cows. The Fountain family raises predominately Black Angus beef cattle. Benny’s father had once sold beef, inspiring Benny to do the same. Benny sells beef to many individuals each year and has even sold beef to the well-known Country Squire restaurant, inn and winery. However, Benny says, “I am in the business to sell to families. That is my first priority.” He likes to ensure that all his customers have the beef they desire.
In the future, Benny hopes the farm and museum will continue to thrive in the hands of his family. His oldest grandson has shown much interest, helping “pa” out daily on the farm.