Douglas Daye’s Family Has Owned His Farm for More Than a Century. Now It Will Be Protected From Development Forever. | Food Feature | Indy Week
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Douglas Daye’s Family Has Owned His Farm for More Than a Century. Now It Will Be Protected From Development Forever. 

click to enlarge Douglas Daye

Photo by Caitlin Penna

Douglas Daye

Tucked back off a winding road in Rougemont are twenty-four picturesque acres recognized as a "century farm" by the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. This designation isn't unique—there are four Durham County farms in the program, and more than two thousand in North Carolina. What is noteworthy, however, is that LM&D Farm is the only century farm owned by people of color in Durham County.

According to Andrea Ashby, director of public affairs for the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the century-farm honor pays respect to the hard work that families put into their farms and the accomplishment of keeping a farm within a family for a century. In order to gain the designation, a farm must have been in the possession of a family for a hundred years or more, with documented proof, although the family doesn't necessarily have to farm it themselves.

"Some no longer farm the land personally, but they know the stories, the struggles, and the triumphs of their great grandparents, grandparents, and parents, and take tremendous pride in that," Ashby says.

LM&D Farm owner and caretaker Douglas Daye knows the stories well. He says his grandfather Lucious Glenn purchased the land from a white family in 1903. His grandfather walked all the way to Durham and back that day, to purchase what Daye was told was then "no more than a rock pile and a big briar thicket." (The Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services recognizes records dated from 1905.)

In the 1920s, prisoners spent time clearing rocks off of the land, Daye says. Despite these efforts, rocks remained a fundamental part of the Glenns' farm for long afterward. Daye encounters them still.

"I believe there will always be rocks in these fields," he says. "Sometimes I think rocks really grow on this place, just like weeds do."

Like the family's struggle against the rocks, they also battled what Daye refers to as a difficult period of history. "Through the hard times like the First World War and the Great Depression, when most people—especially people of color—were leaving the farm and going to the cities and North, looking for work," he says, "Lucious and [his wife] Mary decided to ride it out."

Daye says his grandparents' farm was successful because Lucious and his wife, Mary, were self-sufficient. While they grew tobacco as a cash crop, there were no guarantees their crops would survive or how much money they would bring in. To make sure their family was taken care of, they grew a multitude of other crops and raised animals for their personal use or to trade for other necessities in Rougemont or Durham. Mary also taught in a one-room schoolhouse.

click to enlarge Douglas Daye holds a family photo of his grandfather Lucious Glenn, sitting with his wife, Mary, among relatives. - PHOTO BY CAITLIN PENNA
  • Photo by Caitlin Penna
  • Douglas Daye holds a family photo of his grandfather Lucious Glenn, sitting with his wife, Mary, among relatives.

A Marine Corps vet who spent time in Vietnam, Daye never intended to become a farmer. He grew up on the property he now owns, in close proximity to his grandparents, but decided he wanted to see what else was out in the world. Being in Vietnam, however, changed his mind. He decided that if he made it out, he would come home.

In 1981, Daye inherited the farm. Since then, he's worked tirelessly to continue his grandfather's legacy. When his grandparents' former home was struck by lightning in 1994, he built a workshop in its place and kept the old chimney as a monument to where his grandparents started their family.

Daye remembers how life used to be on the farm. He points out where old trees once stood, where the smokehouse used to be. Today he keeps beef cattle on the land, raises fruit trees, and maintains a garden. The key to keeping a farm, he says, is consistency.

Recently, LM&D Farm received another accolade. Durham County's Farmland Protection Program has granted the farm a conservation easement. This means that the twenty-four acres of farmland will never be subdivided or sold for development. It will be protected indefinitely.

Ashby says century farms provide immense value to their communities. "These farms and the commitment of these families to keep them in the family ensures that future generations have access to the land resources needed for food production," she says.

Daye is doing just that—preserving valuable land for posterity. But he does it for the memory of a past generation. "This isn't about me," Daye says. "It's about my grandfather. He's the owner of this place. I'm just the caretaker."

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