MADE IN RUTHERFORD: Century farms still going strong

MURFREESBORO, DNJ, 5/27/2012 — Rutherford County is home to 28 designated Century Farms, establishing the county is serious about preserving its historical sites and how much agriculture played a part in the development of the growing population.

This aerial photo shows the Tony Angus Farm, most recently named a Century Farm in Rutherford County. The farm is one of two founded by African American families.
This aerial photo shows the Tony Angus Farm, most recently named a Century Farm in Rutherford County. The farm is one of two founded by African American families.

The Tennessee Century Farm Program began in 1975 as a bicentennial project by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

In 1985, the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University assumed the responsibility for the program. The program was originally designed and continues to be a recognition and documentary effort. The Tennessee Century Farms Program has a farm in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

“We have an average of 100 to 120 applications each year from across the state,” said Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms Program at the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU.

In order to qualify as a Century Farm, the farm must have been in the same family continuously for at least 100 years, have at least 10 acres of the original founders’ land, produce at least $1,000 in farm income annually, and have one owner who is a resident of Tennessee.

“The farms receive a certificate from us, they are listed on our website, and they are put on the radar of local and state planners to be considered as historic land,” Hankins said. “We have about 1,600 farms statewide.”

According to the Century Farms website,, the program honors and recognizes the dedication and contributions of families who have owned and farmed the same land for generations.

“After 30 years, the statewide and ongoing program had 1,467 certified farms. Of that number 152 are 200 years old, 634 are 150 years old, and 689 are more than 100 years old,” it states.

Batey Farm, now owned and operated by John Batey, is the oldest Century Farm in Rutherford County. It was established in 1807, and marked its bicentennial only five years ago.

“Rutherford County is also home to two century farms founded by African American families. That is rare. There are only eight total across the state,” Hankins said.

Butler Farm is located east of Murfreesboro on the Old Woodbury Highway. Hankins said that although the exact founding date is unknown, census records indicate that Josiah Butler owned the property by 1880.

On the 26 acres, the family raised corn, cotton and vegetables. In 1889, Josiah purchased more acreage that would eventually be used as the family cemetery.

The current owner of the farm is James Butler Sr. In addition to managing the farm, he is a veteran of World War II and has also been an active member in the community by serving as a mason, a shriner, a board member of the St. Clair Senior Center and a volunteer at the Room at the Inn shelter.

Today, Butler still works the land that produces goats, vegetables, Black Angus cattle and hay. A barn, the family cemetery and a farmhouse still stand on the property.

Most recently the Tony Angus Farm was designated as a Tennessee Century Farm. This was the second century farm in the county to be founded by an African American family.

“We mostly raise hay and cattle,” said Tony Scales, who owns the Tony Angus Farm today. “It’s been in the family for four generations, since the 1800s.”

Jesse Landrum purchased a farm of 40 acres near the county line on the Versailles Road in 1891. He is remembered as the only African American blacksmith working in Rutherford and Bedford counties at the time. The family grew most of its food and had a milk cow.

Beulah Landrum Lanier was the next generation owner. Her husband, Charles Lanier, played baseball for the Negro League and the family had a picnic ground and baseball diamond on their farm, which was used as a community park.

Anthony “Tony” Scales, the son of Everlee Lanier Scales, bought the 40-acre property from the other heirs in 1991. The land needed many improvements and he and his wife, Maxine, began the process of clearing the land and constructing new barns and other outbuildings.

They built their home in 2001. Tony, the fourth generation owner, raises Black Angus cattle on the land that has been in his family for more than 120 years.

“It’s interesting that it stayed in the family for so long,” Scales said. “We are keeping up the family tradition of farming.”

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