July 7, 2013

For some, farming is a family affair

By Christopher Smith

— To Pat Scoggins, it’s work. To Tony Scoggins, her son, it’s an escape from work.

But both agree farming at Scoggins Farm in Subligna in Chattooga County has brought their family closer in a way most families don’t experience.

“I grew up on it,” Tony Scoggins said. “That’s one of the reasons I do it.”

The Scoggins brought their farm-grown tomatoes, peppers and other produce to join several local farmers at the Downtown Dalton Saturday Market.

The market is held at the corner of Thornton Avenue and West Waugh Street every Saturday through August from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If it rains, as it did Saturday, the market is held inside the parking deck adjacent to the BB&T Bank at 201 W. Waugh St.

Despite a steady downpour, both mother and son were more than happy to be out talking with other farmers and patrons. It’s something they’re passionate about; something they attribute to Pat Scoggins’ late father, a gardener and cattle farmer.

“My son got my daddy’s genes,” Pat Scoggins said. “Somehow we keep at it. It’s just part of our family.”

Virginia Richards, a retired teacher from Bagley Middle School in Murray County, said she probably wouldn’t even be a farmer had it not been for her family.

“Me and my husband grew up doing farming and moved away from it as adults,” she said. “Life got busy but then we found ourselves coming back to farming.”

Richards said she lost interest in farming when her father died.

“My husband’s mom and dad went the same way,” she said. “We just changed after that.”

Until her grandson, who has autism, pulled her back into the farming lifestyle.

“We just became more aware of food additives and preservatives in things he was eating, things we were eating,” Richards said. “We really realized what we had given up.”

What they’d given up was a heritage, Richards said. Beulah Farms in Spring Place, where Richards and her husband work, has been in her family for five generations.

Family and farming are intrinsic to each other, Pat Scoggins said.

“I was raised on a farm. All my life my daddy gardened and farmed,” she said. “When I got married 52 years ago, me and my husband bought a farm. When my husband’s dad died, that farm joined ours.”

A heritage broken?

But that kind of generation-to-generation heritage is threatened by modern conveniences, Tony Scoggins said.

“Nowadays the younger generation, they don’t know how to do it,” he said. “They come in and say I like this vegetable, but I don’t know how to grow it. Farming is becoming a past art. I just want to see it keep going.”

Richards said the younger generation — particularly people in their 20s — are hungry for a simple farming lifestyle.

“I think people are breaking away from the mainstream, especially younger people,” she said. “They’re becoming more aware. We’re more cognizant on things going on with food.

“We know that we can be healthier and treat ourselves better by watching what we eat. People are becoming more aware of what they eat and where their food comes from and to buy locally to help local farmers and help the local economy.”

Tony Scoggins said he also sees the desire in young people to break away from the “new age of convenience.”

“Our lifestyles today are hurried,” he said. “It’s go from one thing to another. It’s so easy to go down to the supermarket where food has been shipped in from here, there and everywhere.”

Hard work, but healthier

But that’s not always the best thing, Pat Scoggins said.

“You don’t know if it has been commercialized and what with,” she said. “If you grow it, you know what you’re eating. I just like eating what I know I’m eating. It’s a lot of work, I will say that. You go home and you work in the evenings and you work on the weekends and you sleep ... a little bit.”

Richards agrees.

“You work hard,” she said. “It is an everyday commitment. I can’t go gather my eggs or feed my pigs every now and then — it’s every day. It’s 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., a full-time job for me.”

That pays off.

“I’m certainly not a nutritionist by any means,” she said, “but ... I think people want a more natural product that’s grown locally. It’s healthier. There’s no pesticides or fungicides.”

The other advantage to farming is avoiding becoming docile and bored with life, Richards said.

As for Tony Scoggins, he says he has no intention to stop farming — even if that means coming home at 5 p.m. from a local dye chemical company and working until 9:45 each night.

“We haven’t had a break in several years,” Pat Scoggins said. “We think, ‘Maybe this year?’ We were going to plant less tomatoes this year, but we have 400 tomatoes. So, we never seem to cut back.”

Which is perfectly fine for Tony Scoggins.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s stress relief for me.”