When a U.S. president spends at least part of their life as a farmer, it becomes a mission for some antique history buffs to find out what kind of antique equipment may have been used on their farm.
It was 1977 when Jimmy Carter became the 39th president of the United States. While everyone probably knows he and First Lady Rosalynn Carter were peanut farmers, readers may not know they can visit Jimmy Carter’s boyhood farm today.
The small town of Plains, Ga., is a small farming community and the town has the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and Preservation District to interpret the life and presidency of Carter and to preserve the history of Plains. The National Historic Site includes the farm where he spent his boyhood, Plains High School and the train depot that served as headquarters for his 1976 presidential campaign.
The boyhood farm is an interesting place; it was a common farm for the mid-1920s in the rural South. It provides insight into what life was like for the future president. The Carter family moved to the farm when little Jimmy was four years old.
Ian Pierson, park guide at the National Historic Site, provided a tour with details about how the family lived. He said the house had been restored to 1938 pre-electricity days.
As for using a tractor on the farm, Ian said, “Mr. Earl Carter bought a John Deere A in 1942, but President Carter said he would only use it to break ground.”
While old iron buffs may not find the tractor there, they can see some plows and machinery in the barn and view a pretty amazing windmill used to pump water for the family.
The farm is located near the community of Archery and includes the house, outbuildings and a general store that sits alongside the farmhouse near the clay tennis court that Ian said Carter played upon in his youth. The home had heated fireplaces and woodstoves, but no indoor plumbing or electricity.
According to information from the National Historic Site, it was a typical middle-class rural dwelling for the 1920s. Earl Carter raised cotton, corn and sugar cane with the aid of tenant farmers and was one of the first in the area to experiment with growing peanuts. He also sold canned goods, coffee, kerosene, overalls and a variety of other useful items in the country store/commissary near the house.
Jimmy Carter lived on the farm until he went away to college in 1941. After graduating from college, he received an appointment to the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He married Rosalynn Smith on July 7, 1946, in the Plains United Methodist Church, then served in the Navy for seven years after graduating from the academy.
When his father died in 1953, he resigned his commission and took over the family peanut business. According to National Historic Site information, “his income of $200 that first year was so low that he qualified to move into a low-income housing project in Plains. He and Rosalynn lived there for a year, but soon turned the Golden Peanut Co. into a successful production and processing business.”
For those interested in agricultural history, the farm offers insight from the 1920s to the late 1940s. Visitors can view the store, the barn, the blacksmith shop, two tenant houses, a buggy shed and the windmill. On the farm still grows heritage crops of cotton, peanuts, sugar cane and corn in the fields, and the gardens provide vegetables.
Visitors can hear Carter share stories about his childhood at audio stations along a walking path around the farm. Log onto www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents /jimmy_carter_nhs.html for details.
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.