By Rebecca Jones, special to the News-Times
BETTIE — Will Rodgers once said, “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”
That is the beginning of the story of the Simpson’s Farm at 743 Highway 70 in Bettie, run by George and Sandra Simpson (Shown on the right). In 1918, George’s grandfather George (Frank) Simpson bought 20 acres of land in Bettie. He cleared the land by hand and by candlelight. He did the work at night because the nighttime was not so hot. He raised hogs and vegetables to feed his family. When Frank died, George’s father, Dyon, took over the farm in 1944. Dyon raised soybeans, cabbage and sweet potatoes to sell.
In 1966, George and Sandra took over the farm. They truck-farmed mostly potatoes and cabbage. All their children helped with the farm, along with migrant workers they hired. When their children became grown and started having children, the grandchildren took over where their parents left off.
Sandra said, “Our farm stand is run by family. It is where we teach our grandchildren how things are grown and sold and to respect your customers.”
Apparently, the ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.
George and Sandra did not “set out” to have a farm stand. When George Jr. was 11 years old, he wanted to grow some tomato plants. Of course, his parents encouraged him. That first summer, he had an abundance of tomatoes, so he set up a farm stand by the side of the road. The next year, he asked George and Sandra if they could build him a small greenhouse and if he could plant two rows of strawberries to sell. He sold those crops as well. They ended up building four large greenhouses.
The farm stand was doing so well that George and Sandra began growing strawberries, cantaloupe, squash, sharp head cabbage, onions, potatoes and cherry tomatoes. Sandra spent her days doing a lot of cooking for everyone as all the workers had to be fed lunch and snacks. Her baked goods, jams, breads and pickles were such a hit that she was encouraged to bake and sell her goods as well.
Another building was built with a commercial kitchen, and Sandra called it Nannie’s Bakery. She is most famous for her pies: strawberry, pineapple, coconut, Hawaiian, peach, sweet potato and Butterfinger. She also makes and sells cookies, cream bars and cakes, with her German Chocolate being the most sought after.
The old barn still stands on the property.
Sandra, smiling, said, “What if old barns could talk? They would have a lot to say.”
No doubt, that barn is full of wisdom as it would tell the stories of the families that lived there, of the things and events that it witnessed, of the storms it endured and the endings of things. There will be stories told and forgotten, and some reinvented anew. A good life is a collection of happy memories. The barn has seen lots of beginnings and endings, but there is no real ending in life. It’s just the place where you stop the story.