August 7 – 10, 2017
You may or may not know that Elmwood Stock Farm is split up into two properties. Cecil Bell grew up on “the other farm”—meaning not the main property where most of your food is produced, but where his parents farmed for many years, and where organic grains are grown now for the poultry and pigs. Today, Cecil and his wife, Kay, live in a large, 1800s brick home on the main farm. This is the same home where they raised Elmwood farmers Ann Bell Stone and John Bell.
If you happen to catch Cecil while you’re on a farm tour or picking up your CSA share on Tuesdays, ask him to tell you about growing up here. He’ll probably start out by saying, “Well, you probably don’t want to hear about this …” but you do. It’ll be the most genuine story you’ve heard all month, and then he’ll probably tell you two more. Here’s a little more of Cecil’s story about his family’s farming tradition, told by him.
Q: How is the farm different now than before Ann and John got involved?
Cecil: We grew 100,000 pounds of tobacco on both farms when I was farming with my dad. Tobacco and cattle were our main things, and everything else would center around them. The cover crops would follow the tobacco. We grew the cover crops as hay, feed grain or green manure to till back into the soil for the next tobacco crop.
When I was a kid, we had sheep and chickens and guineas and pigs. We grew a large garden. Then we started specializing in cattle and tobacco. I guess you could say we’ve come full circle, because now we’re back to having all varieties of crops and animals on the farm.
Q: How has farming changed over the years?
Cecil: We still had draft horses for field work when I was a kid. It was the late 40s when we switched completely from horses to tractors. Tractors are definitely an improvement. Now when you’re feeding hay in the winter, you’re in the cab of a tractor. When you’re tilling ground, you’re not eating all that dirt kicked up by the horses. You can get off the tractor after rolling 100 bales of hay and go into town to the bank and not look cruddy.
My first new tractor was a ’65, which we still use. We still have a 1950-model tractor at the other farm and a 1958-model tractor on the main farm.
Q: When did you know you wanted to farm?
Cecil: I just never thought of anything different. I took ag in school at UK and belonged to the AGR fraternity, the ag fraternity. I was in the ROTC and went into the Army as a second lieutenant. I spent two years in the service in Panama and came back to this farm.
Q: How did the transition of farm work take place from you to John and Ann?
Cecil: I was surprised and happy to work with John and Ann, and in fact I encouraged them to come back and farm. Over a period of time, they took on their own things. As they got involved, that was the time for me to back up. They knew more about the vegetables than I did, so I had to just let them do it.
Q: What do you do on the farm now?
Cecil: Now, everybody seems to have their jobs. My personal job throughout the summer is hay. I try to put up 1,200 rolls of hay in the season. Most of the time, it’s by myself.
John and I move the cattle to different pastures, but that’s mostly John now. I mow the fields with the batwing mower after the cattle have been through to take down the weeds.
In the winter, when I’m here, I feed the cattle.
So I mow, rake, roll and move. It sounds like rock and roll, but it’s not quite the same.
Q: What’s your favorite time of year?
Cecil: The spring. It’s when the farm is coming to life.
Q: What’s your favorite farm meal?
Cecil: A half-pound cheeseburger with our first heirloom black tomatoes of the year. My granddaughter, Lucy, eats the whole thing, too. My favorite vegetables are Kay’s stuffed zucchini and her eggplant casserole. – Lisa Munniksma
In Your Share
Green Bell Pepper