WIND BLOW — In the early 1920s, Charlie Howard Bynum and his wife, Onis, made the roughly 100-mile trek eastward from Lincoln County to the Sandhills of Northern Richmond County to start a new life.
Today, their descendants still work the land which was recently recognized as a Century Farm by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. State Fair.
Grandson Danny Bynum, owner of Bynum Peach Farm on N.C. 73, said he sent the paperwork — including a copy of the original deed — to the state in January and received the certificate last week.
The couple came to the area by mule and wagon, according to Bynum.
“He said it was too rocky up there in the clay country,” Bynum said about his grandfather’s decision to move. “He could farm better down here in the sand.
“But, what them two youngins didn’t know when they come was they’d face the drought … them winds blow up here in Windblow … that’s how it got its name … it’d tear up a cotton patch … So they didn’t know what they were gettin’ into.”
Bynum said his grandparents raised tobacco, cotton, cantaloupes, watermelons, peanuts, wheat — and of course, peaches.
“They had some of all of it,” he said. “They had a milk cow. Grandma churned butter and sold it, sold milk.”
But about 10 years after they moved, the Great Depression hit, resulting in them losing one of their milk cows and other things from the farm — but not any of the land.
The couple had eight children, but one daughter passed away at just a few months old, Bynum said.
“Here’s the deal with grandma and grandaddy: When you got big enough to go to the field, you went to the field,” Bynum said. “She had all them children at home, with a midwife. She’d have a child one day and be back in the field workin’ the next day.
“They were some hard-workin’ people,” he said. “You earned your living by the sweat of the brow — you don’t work, you don’t make.”
Bynum said his grandfather’s motto was Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
Or paraphrased: “A poor man ain’t got nothin’ but his name and his credit. If you mess up both of them, you labeled for life. So do good at both of ‘em.”
Bynum said he has letters that his grandmother wrote to her family back in Lincoln county, describing their arrival and about the hot and dry conditions.
“In the clay, they didn’t have no gnats, down here it looks like you’re waving,” he joked.
Most of the second generation left the farm after reaching adulthood, except for Bynum’s father, Worth Bynum Sr., and uncle, Homer B. Bynum.
“They stayed on the farm and kept farming,” he said.
Homer Bynum continued most of the farm work until retiring in his 80s, while Worth Bynum worked at the Sandhills Research Station — but maintained the peach orchard on the side. Worth Bynum passed away in 1989 from lung cancer at 61 years old.
His mom, Pat, also helped out at the peach shed and cooked lunch for those working in the field.
Bynum started working on the farm around as a kid, hauling the tobacco sled from the field to the barn on his uncle’s Massey-Harris tractor.
“I’ve been doin’ somethin’ a long time with the farm, but I enjoy it,” Bynum said. “I like this better than anything I ever did.”
He also worked at the SRS in his teens working in the nursery.
“I just know it’s a lot of hard work and we’ve tried to keep in the family for a hundred years, and so far we’re doin’ a pretty good job.”
Over the years, the land has been divided up but some have sold their parcels to family members so it can “stay together,” Bynum said.
These days, in addition to the peaches, Bynum raises grains and sometimes cantaloupes and watermelons — “just depending on how it hits me.”
His brother, Chris Bynum, who is a deputy with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, still tends to their father’s grapes.
“I like to eat the grapes but I don’t care too much about them, that’s a lot of pruning,” Bynum said.
Bynum’s office at the fruit stand, includes NASCAR memorabilia from Rockingham Speedway, a 1964 Alice-Chalmers pedal tractor which was recently restored by a friend, and peach-related pictures and posters. Some of the photos are of Bynum with Peach Queens of the past.
His wife, Sherry, takes care of the financial side of the business and sells peaches.
According to the Ag Department, the state first recognized Century Farm families with a luncheon at Dorton Arena in 1970. At that time, more than 800 farms qualified.
Of the state’s 52,000 farms currently in operation across North Carolina, roughly 1,800 are Century Farms, according to the department.
The website lists a dozen Century Farms in Richmond County, including Grants Farms (1919) just outside Ellerbe and Marie McQueen’s farm in nearby Derby.
The other farms listed are:
- Bryon R. Campbell (1906)
- Daniel S. Campbell (1906)
- Howard F. Campbell (1906)
- John Dockery, Emily Dockery (1843)
- Ray Gibson (1883)
- Robert S. Gibson (1883)
- David Leroy McKay Sr. (1834)
- Ruth Watson
- Tom H. Williams (1893)
- Wesley Kellam Williams (1893)
Bynum is planning to have an open house later this summer to celebrate being a Century Farm.