In September 1917, Milton and Mary Blackwell began raising Hereford cows, along with horses, prized mules, hay, corn, wheat, and oats on 230 acres of rolling farmland in Rutherford County.
One hundred years later, Milton and Mary’s grandaughter, Marianne, continues the family’s traditions as a passionate steward of the land, better known as Greensward Farm.
“Some of my friends have accused me of having dirt in my veins, as opposed to blood,” said Marianne, who earned the title of Rutherford County Soil Conservation Farmer of the Year in 2008.“ Land and conservation are very important. At one point I had thought about putting a house on the farm and I personally decided to back off that because I couldn’t envision an open pasture being anything but just that.”
For Marianne, the land is more than soil and seeds, and she cares deeply for the animals that share the farm. Through good times and bad, she says, the land has provided for her family.
“It’s not only where you live,” she said. “It’s where my family made it’s living. The farm put me through college. It provided for all of our needs through these years. It’s very symbiotic: it takes care of us and we try to take care of it.”
Through her hard work and conservation vision, Marianne is returning the favor. In 2017, just weeks after Greensward Farm received its official designation as a Tennessee Century Farm, Marianne completed a conservation agreement with The Land Trust for Tennessee that will ensure the the farmland will always remain undeveloped, open pastures.
Now, she can continue to farm and enjoy her family’s land with peace of mind that it will be be conserved for future owners, as well.
“Once land is developed or built on can it never be reclaimed…and there’s only a finite amount,” she said, noting the farms she has seen divided or developed over the years. “I think our previous relatives would be overjoyed that we’re trying to be proactive and take steps to do the right thing.”