Kennon Tatum and his wife, Lyndal, met when they became neighbors in the fifth grade. Born in 1937, life was much different for Kennon than it is for a farmer today. The man who remembers tending to crops with two mules still beams when talking about his Ford 8N tractor.
Kennon learned from his dad and uncle who got started with a mere 40 acres working tobacco and cotton crops. Lyndal’s father was a sharecropper and had a store in Tattnall County.
Kennon followed in his father’s footsteps growing tobacco as his money crop and keeping hogs and cows. He started with his first crop when he was just fourteen years old when his granddaddy gave him one acre. It was easier to acquire land then. You purchased tobacco acreage from anyone looking to leave the county.
Married in 1957, Kennon was just twenty and Lyndal eighteen. Lyndal had just won the state championship for basketball at Glennville High School when she set out to start a family with Kennon. They’ve lived in a quaint four room house with no indoor bathroom. Though it did have power, they but chuckle when they reminisce on watching the power lines grow from downtown Reidsville and Glennville out to the county. Their first child, Kay, was born there and they made it home until they moved down the road to house number two, which made room for sons Ken and Kevin. They ultimately moved to the home they still reside in in 1963.
Lyndal wore many hats in addition to Kennon’s right-hand-lady and mother to three children. Hen master to their backyard chickens and servant to the Tattnall County Board of Education, she was also a travel agent for 39 years while keeping up with what was larger than anything most people would call a garden. Lyndal traveled the world to see Paris and the likes while Kennon stayed home to farm. He always told her, “Go! I’ll be here when you get back.” He always was…unless of course he was driving the school bus for Tattnall County schools. He’s did that for 50 years.
At their peak, the Tatum’s had 200 brood sow which were sold in Tison and Baxley, and 100 cows. For years, they grew onions – Vidalia onions, actually, though they weren’t yet famous. When farming took a hit, Kennon took a risk on the poultry side getting into business with Claxton Poultry in Evans County. Perspective would wow most people today with the average chicken house then costing $75,000 compared to the $500,000+ investment for two in today’s world. Loans, financing, and contracts put Tatum Farms at a mammoth five chicken houses.
Understanding that poultry saved both Tattnall and Evans counties when tobacco failed, Kennon served on the Tattnall Farm Bureau board–even climbing his way to Treasurer and Director. He also serves on the board of the Glennville Bank since the early 1980’s.
That, however, was on the upswing. With the drought and the Carter administration, 1977-1980 was painfully tough for farmers. The wheat and corn embargo, along with other hardships, came down mid-season meaning farmer’s couldn’t sell what they had grown. Luckily, Kennon had what he said was necessary to be a lucrative farmer: a strong will and a firm faith.
…And a wonderful wife. Kennon’s soulful answer when asked about his best year farming: “The year I married Lyndal!” Lyndal, a bit embarrassed, clarified that the question was inquiring for a more farm-related answer, but it was almost as if he didn’t hear her. Kennon carried on about the wonderfulness of his doting wife, what a spectacular mother she was, and what honest and wholesome children she raised. He said Lyndal always makes sure everyone knows how blessed they are.
That’s obvious in their home, too. Lyndal showcased overflowing bookshelf after overflowing bookshelf of photographs of her grandchildren with no other explanation than, “This is our life!”
Kennon’s wealth of information makes him a fruitful fountain of advice, though he hammered home points not unknown to the old-time farmers: “Don’t take on more than you can handle. If you get too large, you’ll make less. And less allows for better quality. And bigger doesn’t always mean more.”
Tobacco was Kennon and Lyndal’s forte until 2004 when they were bought out by another farmer. Kennon and Lyndal sold their hogs when it simply became too much to care for – even after they stuck it out when hogs were just $0.07 per pound. Though not all of the land was tended for farming, Kennon and Lyndal continued to acquire land throughout the years any time it was available. Now, they have about 750 acres in Tattnall County.
If you ask him today, Kennon will tell you that the best thing, still, about farming is the independence and the innovation. He’ll linger on about the rewards, but smiles the brightest when he talks of the good people you get to meet. The advantage for all of those people, they had the opportunity to meet Kennon.
Originally, Kyle Durrence of Durden Pecan was nominated for All On Georgia – Tattnall’s ‘Farm of the Month”. He nominated Kennon, but due to Kennon’s deteriorating health, asked if Kennon could be showcased in August, as Kennon and Lyndal were like second parents to Kyle. Kyle Durrence will be September’s ‘Farm of the Month’ and Kennon’s nomination will be showcased in October.
Kennon nominated Tony Kennedy because of his go-getter attitude. When describing Tony, he said, “He continues to grow and everything he does is right. He is a good Christian man and so humble. I’ve been impressed since he started.”