A real farm family
story by Michelle Tessier
Cates Farm is a place where the passion for the land is passed down through generations.
Sharon Cates took over the farm in 1992, after the death of her husband. She was faced with the decision of whether to rent her land out and sell the family's farming machinery or farm the land herself. She chose to do it on her own so that her son, Ab, who was 11, would have a chance to farm when he got older.
Farming is a difficult way of life. Farming doesn't provide a steady paycheck. A farmer doesn't receive benefits, like health insurance and retirement. This year, a drought crippled the pumpkin crop and Sharon had to buy pumpkins from another farmer and carry them out to her own pumpkin patch for visitors to pick.
"I'm not sorry that I did what I did.... I'm satisfied," says Sharon.
Ab, who knew how to drive all of the machinery by the time he was 11, gave up football in high school to work on the farm. While going to Western Kentucky University to study agriculture, he came home on the weekends to help work the farm.
"[Farming is] mostly in my blood, I guess," says Ab. "It's something I love to do."
Sharon took on the role of planner and bookkeeper for the farm and in 1992, she hired John Pruitt, a factory worker turned farmer, to help. John, who watched his little brother struggle with the loss of their father at a young age, became a close friend of the family.
"[John's] helped me out and taught me things," says Ab. "I guess I've taught him things too. We all teach each other."
In 2006, Sharon, Ab, and John opened the farm to the community as a family gathering place. Some weeks as many as 2,000 visitors come to discover the 11-acre corn maze, pick pumpkins, and sit by the bonfire. "It's important that children have knowledge about how food is grown," says Sharon, who taught school for many years. Sharon tries to treat everyone who comes to the farm like family.
"Some school kids have never been on a farm," says John. "They've never been on a hay ride, they've never been in a pumpkin patch. They don't want to leave."