A chilly, dreary day is the best time to catch Mr. Lavanda Lynn. He’s a busy body who never really stops and he’s been farming for well over 50 years. He and his wife, Mrs. Jackie, are a team in just about everything they do.
Lavanda’s family is deeply rooted in Tattnall County. Lavanda’s great, great grandfather fought in the Civil War and walked home from battle to resettle on the Ohoopee River, now known as Lynntown.
His father, Daniel Lynn, lost his father at a young age and because his mother never remarried, he spent much of his childhood and teen years learning from his uncle. Daniel grew up in the Great Depression and farmed as a sharecropper. He never owned any land after seeing everyone lose so much in the 1920’s, Daniel never wanted to go into debt to purchase anything. This shaped Lavanda immensely, who was one of eleven children. Lavanda grew up in a time where families bred their workers, and of all eleven, Lavanda is the only one in agriculture.
When Lavanda began farming on his own in 1961, he was just 19 years old. He tended a combined 35 acres of tobacco, cotton, and corn alongside hogs and cows which he added to his own operation in 1963. He leased land for almost a decade before purchasing his own plot of 64 acres of land in Collins, and though he and his father both had their own separate farming operations, they worked together every day. Lavanda said he always desired to own his own farm, especially after watching his dad sharecrop.
He married Mrs. Jackie Waters of Mendes when they were teenagers – Jackie’s father was a well-driller and occasionally farmed, but when she married Lavanda, she became just as involved in the farming operation as any other.
About 25 years ago, the Lynn’s stopped with hogs to make the switch to chicken houses with Claxton Poultry. They still have a large herd of 100 cattle, four chicken houses, 700 acres of cotton, 90 acres of hay pasture for production, and 90 acres of pasture. And he and his grandson, Landyn, 24, tend the land with just one part-time helper.
Lavanda takes great pride in the fact that Landyn wants to go into agriculture, but he urges the career choice with caution because of how farming has changed. “It just looks so hopeless,” he says. “Prices are depressed, expenses are through the roof and it costs so much to farm. You take such a big risk and you never have time off.” He’s right, farming isn’t easy and it’s the only industry where you don’t control the input costs or the output prices. Too, most of the Lynn property isn’t irrigated, and as Lavanda says, “If the Good Lord doesn’t bless, it won’t be there that year.”
The worst years he’s seen were in the 1980’s because of the drought, but Lavanda says 2015 was a tough year for many people because of the economy and the prices of commodities.
When asked why he chose farming – and continues to do it – when it is often thankless and lacking in profit, Lavanda says, “I’ve always loved it. And I just wanted to work with my daddy.” His favorite thing about farming, though, is simple: “You realize how close you are to The Lord when you see how dependent you are on Him.” Mrs. Jackie added, “You feel closer to Him anyway, especially on the old tractors plowing. You have a lot of time to think.”
He couldn’t do it without her. Mrs. Jackie has never worked outside the family farm and she picked up the slack when Lavanda was a mail carrier for several years all while caring for their three children, too. She raked hay, drove tractors, and planted tobacco, but in her humility, Jackie seems to undervalue her own worth to the farming operation.
Lavanda says he grew up in an era where, when someone was sick, neighbors took time to see about their farm for them – without being asked. But now, people are so busy with their own affairs, the situation is not the same outside the close circle of friends and family. What it takes to farm has changed as well. Key characteristics, Lavanda says, include having an education, a strong work ethic, and an unwavering trust in God.
“We didn’t inherit anything. What we have we just worked really hard for and we’ve been blessed.”
Lavanda’s work ethic is something he picked up from his daddy young, but one he watched be carried out through much of Mr. Daniel’s life. He said at 81, his dad could throw a 100 lb bag of fertilizer just as good as the next guy. “Work hard and be honest, that’s what my daddy always said.” We talked at length about the loss of handshake deals and Lavanda shared that when he and Jackie married, they paid their grocery bill at the end of the year after carrying a running tab. “It’s just what you did and you were good for your word. You would never think to not pay it.” The bill the first year they were married was just $323.
Having their own meat from hogs and cows kept the grocery bill low and a garden of their own fruits and vegetables helped them remain more self-sustainable than most. They still keep up the garden with everything from pickles and lemons to cane sugar and wine and Jackie still cans what they don’t eat right away. They make butter, have a milk cow, and still butcher some of their cows, something that many people are unable to do anymore. The number of small scale processing facilities is dwindling across Georgia and Lavanda now takes his meat to Stewart’s in Vidalia. The Lynn’s try to give much to their neighbors still today and Lavanda says they’ll continue to as long as they’re able.
When he’s not on the farm, he’s quite the entertainer. Lavanda spent several years singing with a gospel group and traveling the region performing. He would tell jokes and stories between songs, something he said people seemed to enjoy. So when Tattnall Productions started, he started sharing his talent of telling jokes on a more regular basis – a big change from his high school days when he says he was very bashful. “I love telling jokes because in that little span of time, you forgot about all your problems. The Bible says a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Lavanda jokes that he ‘started with nothing, and still has most of it,’ but the reality is that Lavanda has built an admirable Tattnall County farming operation respected by those around him. He also has the confidence and the joy of knowing he wouldn’t choose to do anything differently, he says. “I would love to know what I know now, but other than that, my choices would be the same.”
Lavanda and Jackie have three children, Van Lynn, Dawn Lynn Hawkland, and Carmen Lynn Guy who have provided the Lynn’s with 6 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Van owns adjoining land, though he currently lives in Gwinnett County, and their daughters both live in Collins. Dawn is the Postmaster in Reidsville and Carmen is a program technician at the FSA office for Tattnall County.
Lavanda Lynn was nominated by Mr. Neil Rogers of Reidsville, who was the January ‘Farm of the Month.’ Lavanda then nominated Kim Lynn for the March ‘Farm of the Month’ based on his work ethic and dedication to farming. To see previous Farms of the Month, click here.