While there are more than 50 Century Farms in Lincoln County, Randy and Andrea Delap have the unique distinction of owning two Tennessee Century Farms, the Delap Farm and Flint River Farm.
The Tennessee Century Farm program, created in 1975 by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture as part of the nation’s bicentennial program, honors farms that have remained in the same family and have had continuous agricultural production for at least 100 years.
Both farms, situated in southern Lincoln County surrounded by rolling hills and lush green pastures, came through Randy’s hard-working ancestors and each farm has had continuous agricultural production for more than a century. Randy was elected as Lincoln County Register of Deeds in 2002. While assisting others in research for their Century Farms, he realized the Delap Farm would soon be eligible. So when the time came he applied and the Delap Farm was named a Century Farm in 2012.
The newest of the farms, the Delap farm, was passed down through the Delap family and the Flint River Farm through the Simms and Delap family line. The Flint River Farm received the Century Farm designation in 2014.
In 1912 Randy’s great-grandparents, T.A. and Annie Delap, moved from Ardmore to the Vanntown Road property, establishing the Delap Farm. They cleared the land, hand-cut logs to build a house, barn and a cotton gin. They raised beef cattle and grew cotton, hay, and planted an apple orchard.
Sadly, only two original structures remain on the land. “The only buildings left standing at the Delap farm are the barn and the generator shed,” said Randy.
When the cotton gin was first built it was powered by steam engine. “It was converted to electric in the 1930s,” Randy recalled. The gin at Lincoln closed in 1958.
Before main electric lines were run to the county, T.A. used a Delco System, which operated with a generator and several large batteries. T.A. would crank the generator to keep the lights on until bedtime, Randy explained.
In the 1930s, Melvin Delap, Randy’s grandfather, and great-grandfather T.A. ran phone lines from Howell Hill to the Flint River Farm and to the Delap Farm. “We still have the crank phones that were at Melvin’s and T.A.’s houses and gin,” said Randy. “My father, Jerry Delap, was raised here and remembered people coming to use the phone in the middle of the night,” Randy remembered. People would knock on the door if someone was sick and needed to call the doctor.
One tract of land that became the Flint River Farm was originally purchased by the Simms family in 1893. Later, in 1899 the Simms’s bought an adjoining tract of land, making the combined land total of 95 acres. Through the years the property was passed down through the Simms family to the Delap family, Randy explained. Randy’s great-great grandfather, J.T. “Tom” Simms and his wife, Ella, grew hay and raised beef cattle, but Tom had multiple interests in addition to farming. Tom served as County Magistrate for 40 years and was also a professional photographer. He built a studio at their house for his photography, plus he traveled throughout the community to take photographs. Amazingly, he found time to build furniture and make walking sticks too. “We still have a chair and walking stick he built,” said Randy.
In 1948 Randy’s grandfather, Melvin, bought Polled Hereford cattle to raise on the farm. To this day Randy and Andrea still raise hay and cattle, primarily Polled Hereford cattle, on the farms. Sitting on the patio in the back yard under a beautiful maple tree, Randy and Andrea can watch the cattle lazily grazing in the pastures and wading in a pond of cool water. While they are both working, Randy at the courthouse and Andrea in the office at Higgins Funeral Home, they still manage to find time to spend with “Clover,” a large Polled Herford heifer cross that Randy bottle fed after her mother died.
“She’ll be on the farm forever,” said Randy with a grin.