Family farm honored with state award

Larry G. King feeds his Black Angus cows on the King Farm, which has been owned by his family for more than 100 years.

Larry G. King feeds his Black Angus cows on the King Farm, which has been owned by his family for more than 100 years.

COVINGTON -- Ask Larry G. King why he loves farm life so much, and he'll let a picture say a thousand words.

On a recent overcast day, having just shown off his 60-plus head of black Angus cattle, King escorts a visitor into his kitchen and points to a photo hanging on the wall. A multi-colored chicken sits perched on a white fence. In the background are rolling hills of thick green pastureland, dotted by the occasional grazing livestock. The sun is rising through the trees. King took the photo himself, and it sums up his feelings about spending his lifetime on the family farm.

"Even when land here was bringing a lot of money for real estate, we didn't think about selling it, because it's home and we just enjoy living here. There's definitely not any money in the cow business," he said.

King Farm off Brown Bridge Road has been in King's family for more than 100 years. His great-great-grandfather, James Martin King, lived in a two-room house on the property until he went to battle in the Civil War and was killed in Vicksburg. Larry King's father Melvin King bought the land from James Martin's son, so the property skipped a generation of ownership, though it never left the King family. Larry King was born on the farm in 1944, and he's lived there ever since. He and his wife Jane own 107 acres, and his three sisters own an additional 150 acres.

The property was a dairy farm until the late '70s but now King raises beef cattle.

The King Farm is one of 22 farms in the state being honored with a Georgia Centennial Family Farm Award. The awards recognize farms that have been in the same family for at least a century and will be handed out at a luncheon at the Georgia National Fair in Perry on Oct. 7. Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black will be the keynote speaker.

The White-Aiken Farm, which grows timber and is also located in Newton County, will also be honored. The awards are administered by the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Georgia Farm Bureau Federation; Georgia Department of Agriculture; Georgia Forestry Commission; and Georgia National Fair and Agricenter.

King applied for the award and provided proof of the farm's history. It's another way of preserving the heritage of the land where he grew up and raised his own children, and where his grandchildren now play.

"Being able to have the grandkids on the farm ... they're learning how to drive, fish, hunt. We enjoy that kind of stuff. I guess that's what it's all about. We wake up in the morning and see cows grazing instead of people walking in the neighborhood," he said.

The Kings know they're in the minority these days, still operating a family farm that's more than a century old. They recall the days when rain was plentiful and kept time with the crops' needs, labor was inexpensive and fertilizer was reasonably priced.

"I guess it's like anything else -- it's a thing of the past," said Jane King. "You have a lot of great memories of the past, but you know it will never go back to being like that."

"It was a good life though," her husband added.