Hidden History: James City County farm continues to provide sustenance nearly 400 years after its founding

JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The farm stretches well beyond what the eye can see, but it all started in one spot during some of Jamestown’s earliest days.

“In 1619 they unloaded a boatload of slaves right here in this general area and cleared 100 acres of land,” Howard Smith points out where the story of the farm begins.

He explains the colonists could not grow food on the island, so they looked to the mainland for sustenance.

“It went out of the hands of the clergymen back in the day,” Smith says. “And then it went into different hands, different people, different things with it. Some people just cut timber off of it. Other people just used it for dairy farming.”

It is a dairy farm today, and the property has been in Smith’s family since 1945 when his father became the overseer. Smith calls it the oldest laboring farm in the country.

The farm has been one of about a hundred in the area, but over the years others folded in favor of modern-day development.

“Condominiums, shopping centers, golf courses,” Smith lists. “You can’t eat this, and we have decided to continue to try to carry on.”

(Photo: The Church Of God At Williamsburg)

Smith says Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux of the Church of God acquired the farm in the 1930’s for what would be the National Memorial to the Progress of the Colored Race in America. The Elder prophesied a second Great Depression and made Smith’s father promise cows would stay on the property to offer food during it.

“It’s quite an interest that we are still carrying on the tradition of providing food for America,” Smith states.

The Church of God still provides some funding to the farm, and Smith hopes to add cows to the herd. There are also plans for a permanent monument to honor those who helped shape the land.

“There’s so much untold history of the slave when he landed and what he has become today and the importance for us is to keep that going,” says Smith. “I find it a privilege to be able to say this is where the forefathers started, and we are continuing to carry on the vision of providing food for America.”

Smith says the land has other historical significance too. Captain John Smith, the English explorer who helped to settle America, spent time on the property and is believed to have buried his treasure there.

Smith remembers when the National Park Service spent time on the property searching for it, but there is no word on whether anything was ever found.

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