In 1912, Jimmy Echols’ grandfather bought a piece of property in Northeast Hall County. A century later Jimmy Echols, his sons and grandson are still working the land.
Jaemor Farms, a Hall County staple, has been designated as a Georgia Centennial Farm by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division for its 100 years of continuous operation.
“We have sustained this operation for 100 years through the different family members that have owned it and I think the value system is here and the work ethic is here to do that another 100 years,” said Jimmy Echols.
Jimmy Echols bought the farm, then known as Echols Farm, from his father in 1962, when the operation mainly dealt in cattle, chickens and peaches.
In 1992, the farm stopped raising cattle and in 1999 dropped its chicken operation, opting to completely farm fruits and vegetables.
By then, the market, which was launched in 1981, was beginning to take off and the Echolses saw a market no area farm, or business, had tapped.
“The whole thing would not be worth what it is without the market retail side,” said Jarl Echols, Jimmy’s son. “If we had to wholesale stuff, we probably wouldn’t make it.”
But the first few years of running the market were not lined with silver.
“When we started off, we made so many mistakes it was pitiful,” said Jimmy. “We lost money hand over fist. The first three years there was not one dime of profit from this market.”
But over the next 10 years, the market began attracting attention from customers and began sustaining itself, but still did not yield a tremendous profit.
Today, business comes from all over the state and region.
“We were just determined to learn from trial and error,” said Jimmy. “And there were more mistakes than there were successes and I hope that’s not the case today. I don’t think it is because you learn.”
Now Jimmy mainly manages the market, while Jarl oversees the farm. Jarl’s son, Drew, manages the harvest, planning and marketing for the farm.
The combination of the generations, they said, helps move the farm forward.
“There can be a little friction around the edges, but it does help a good bit to have all those viewpoints,” said Jimmy.
And moving forward is something Drew sees as a constant goal.
“I like trying to do better every single time,” said Drew. “That’s the mentality of some of us here: to try and do better every single time. We set the mark and we try to beat the mark.”
That attitude has kept the farm going successfully and in the family for a century.
“I think the biggest benefit is the fact that if you’re successful with it, and we have been, that it can pass on,” said Jarl. “There’s nothing like leaving something, I don’t think, to your kids that you’ve worked hard for and you can see them come up in and it can (be) rewarding to them too, if that’s what they want to do.
“Starting from scratch today, with a farm like this right here, with a good knowledge of how to do it, would be real hard ... it’s almost like a big inheritance without a dollar sign on it.”
But, the growth in popularity, size and reputation could easily foster a different demeanor from the farm’s owners. That’s something the Echolses take to heart.
“There is a mindset out there that this is a corporate farm because it is bigger than most of the smaller ones around,” said Drew. “But it’s the furthest from a corporate farm. Man, look at my pants. If I was the CEO of a corporate farm, I wouldn’t be dirty, I can promise you that.”
And the family takes pride in hard work, service and keeping the land’s sustainability so the farm can see its 200th birthday.
“Me and my daddy talk more about what we’re going to do next year than what we’re doing right now,” said Drew. “We know what we’re doing right now. You plan ahead so you don’t slash-and-burn farm.”
Jimmy agrees. In fact, he said, it’s something he pushes for.
“That’s sort of the outlook of it,” he said. “We’re going to take care of the land so it can take care of us and our family for many years to come.”
The Echolses will be recognized on Oct. 5 in Perry at the 2012 Centennial Farm Awards Ceremony at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.