YORK — Recently a car pulled into Roe Inmans driveway, across from Cotton Belt Elementary School on S.C. 5.
A couple wanted to know if they could use his place for their wedding. They were especially drawn to a large oak with a green porch swing. While it was stripped of leaves, there was a certain elegance to the tree. The couple undoubtedly were envisioning how it would look in May with full foliage.
Inman, 53, has a much different vision of the tree.
He remembers his father, also nicknamed Roe, taking him to very early morning breakfasts in York and then driving to the family farm. Inman remembers turning into the homestead, the lights of the pickup truck sweeping across the tree, revealing a mass of shadows the tenant farmers awaiting their instructions for the day.
Inman wants to share this and other memories. He is opening the Inman farm as an agri-tourism site. Visitors will be able to tour the site, learning about what it was like to farm in York County from the late 1890s to the 1950s.
One of the highlights of the tour is the farms second peach-packing shed. The first shed was built in downtown York next to the railroad when peaches left York County by train. The second shed, still with its original equipment, was built in 1951 when trucks hauled the produce. The shed is now The Market at Inman Farms.
Inmans quest is aided by the fact that his father, grandfather and other ancestors didnt throw much away.
Key buildings in the farms operations are just steps from the oak tree.
To one side is a corn crib that once held feed for the 40 mules used to farm the more than 1,000 acres where cotton was grown.
Inman recalls the story his father told him about Lark McAllister, who would get up at 4 a.m. every day to feed the mules. Inman still has the lantern McAllister carried on his early-morning rounds.
When boll weevils destroyed most of the cotton in the late 1920s, the Inmans, like many other York County farmers, planted peaches. In 1962, the family cultivated Concord grapes. The last crop was soybeans. Farming ceased about 1985.
Gradually much of the land was sold. Inman now retains about 290 acres.
To the other side of the oak from the corn crib is a simple white building. Opening its doors is like opening a time capsule. The building stores many of the farms implements from earlier days. There is a scale to weigh cotton bales and hand trucks to move them.
There are large sacks which once held 200 pounds of fertilizer for peaches, and wooden boxes are stacked two high, each with the name Inman Bros. The boxes were used to move the peaches from the orchards to the packing shed.
That was the job of young boys, called box boys. It was Inmans first job at the family farm.
He remembers being so small that it was difficult to move even an empty box, much less a box full of peaches.
Inman graduated from box boy to bailing hay.
He learned how to drive the tractor.
He remembers Roddy, one of the tenant farmers, riding on the fender of the tractor to assist him. Inman said he was initially limited to driving the tractor first gear, low range.
You were moving so slow, you were just barely moving. You could have walked faster.
Learning to work
Inman said he learned some of his greatest lessons from the tenant farmers who worked the land. He recalled being told to hoe the grapes, a task that seemed insurmountable.
John Rainey, a tenant farmer, taught him it wasnt insurmountable. You just take it one row a time, Inman remembers Rainey telling him.
The lesson resulted in a lifelong work ethic and confidence, he said.
The biggest lesson, though, was the love of the land, which has been passed down from father to son for generations.
My father loved this farm, Inman said.
So, too, does the son, and his agri-tourism plans are a way to honor all who have worked this land, both his ancestors and the tenant farmers.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066