AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Farming has been the lifeline for many area families.
But, one family has surpassed others and earned a position in state history.
The Thompson farms is a big part of Augusta’s history dating back to the 1800’s.
Many people don’t realize there’s a sprawling farm at the base of downtown Augusta.
For more than one hundred years the Thompson farm has been planting, processing and producing thousands of pounds of commodies.
“Soybeans, corn, wheat, oats and rye and millet,” lists Charles Thompson.
It’s all in downtown Augusta.
What has grown to more than two thousand acres sprouted from seeds sown in the 1870s.
It all began with a family company that was built off what’s known as a “dray line.”
“It was basically a transportation company. Today you’ve got semis hauling things in local trucks. But, the dray line hauled things in the time of the mule,” explains Thompson.
Charles Thompson, and his brother Harold, are now carrying on their grandparent’s vision.
Through their work, the business that once transported feed and commodities from other farmers, is creating its own products that are being used near and far.
“A lot of the corn goes up to Monetta to Amy Brawler Farms or either Columbia Farms where they process the corn into feed for chickens which we’re eating here in Richmond County.”
While the farm has been built off the physical work of the Thompson men the foundation was established by JoAnn Thompson who purchased the first 660 acres of land in 1918.
“The fascinating part of the family history is that you have this astute African American business woman who is buying these large tracts of land, prime land, before women even had the right to vote,” informs Joyce Law.
Law is a local historian who is instrumental in gathering documentation that won the Thompson farm a distinguished designation.
“The Thompson family has the honor of being the first farm family to receive the “Georgia Centennial Farm Family Award” and in the Central Savannah River Area there are less than five African American families that have this honor. “
It’s the first and only farm in Augusta to gain the honor for operating continuously over 100 years.
The award is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historical Preservation Division.
According to its website, the Georgia Centennial Farm Program was established in 1993 to recognize farm families that have preserved the state’s agricultural history non-stop for at least a century.
For the Thompson brothers, their hard work in carrying on the family tradition is not about awards or honors.
“You learn that things don’t always go the way you planned for them to go. But, you still have to stay in there with it and work with it and there will be a better time,” reflects Charles Thompson.
The humble men, from equally humble beginnings, say it’s all about the love.
“For us, we look at what we enjoy first. Then, you take that and try to make a profit out of it. If you put profit first and then love that doesn’t work.”
Aside from the agriculture industry, the Thompson family has played important roles in Georgia history.
In the late 1800s, Augustus Thompson helped to established the first black lodge called the “Odd Fellows” in Atlanta, Georgia which initiated 25 area businessmen in its first year.
His son, John Thompson, became a semi-professional baseball player and migrated from Atlanta to Augusta on May 27, 1884.
John Thompson married John Ann Crosby, also known as JoAnn, and began a “dray line” business.
In 1908, after the city of Augusta experienced devastating floods, John Thompson, along with Rev. Dr. Silas Floyd and Rev. Dr. C. T. Walker, was appointed to serve on the Hamburg Swamp Relief.
They would become advisors on what developed into the Augusta levee.
John Thompson was a charter member of the Augusta branch of the N.A.A.C.P.
Thompson Farms has been recognized by the Augusta-Richmond County Georgia Extension Service as the largest commercial commodity farm in the city and county.