- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

CLOVER, S.C. (AP) - Farming is dirty work with long hours and few vacations. But Evelyn Edmunds would prefer no other way to raise her children and live her life.

At 87, Edmunds roams her 300-acre farm in a little red pickup truck, checking daily on a herd of about 55 black Angus cattle that come running when she calls.

“You’re outside, you’re close to God and you don’t have anybody hollering at you,” Edmunds said. “But it’s hard work, and you’re always dirty. You’re never nice and clean.”

Edmunds has spent most of her life running the family’s Circle E Farm on U.S. 321 south of Clover where turkeys and black Angus cattle are raised and hay is cultivated.

She and her husband, John Edmunds, began farming in 1950. He died of a heart attack in 1978, at 48, when three of the couple’s six children were still at home.

“We had turkeys in the field, hens, and it was coming November,” Edmunds remembers of the day her husband died. “They were ready for market.”

The turkeys were sold and Edmunds took over management of Circle E Farm with matter-of-fact efficiency.

She has been a mentor for women in agriculture, and has encouraged many local youths to pursue careers in agriculture through 4-H, Scouting and Angus associations.

Gov. Nikki Haley recently awarded Edmunds the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor in South Carolina. Sen. Harvey Peele, who represents part of York County, presented the award during the annual Partners in Agriculture and Conservation Legislative Dinner in York.

The Order of the Palmetto is given for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. Edmunds was nominated by the York County Soil & Water Conservation District, where she served as a commissioner for 19 years.

Barbara O’Connell, coordinator of the conservation district, called Edmunds “a trailblazer for women in agriculture” through her work with groups such as the S.C Cattleman’s Association and S.C. Farm Bureau.

During meetings, “many times, she was the only woman at the table,” O’Connell said.

Wesley Edmunds, 51, her youngest child and only son, was 14 when his father died.

“She was put in a position where she didn’t have any choice,” he said. “If you want to be in agriculture, you have to go to meetings to find out what is going on.”

Edmunds said his mother also took her children and others around the country to show beef cattle through the S.C. Junior Angus Association, which she co-founded.

“That’s where you get common sense,” he said, “by having to do things.”

Wesley Edmunds still lives on the family property, where he grows the hay and tends 84,000 turkeys every eight weeks. Circle E is a brooder farm, nurturing young turkeys under a contract arrangement.

The farm has one hired hand, but Evelyn Edmunds said over the years, she and her husband and their children did most of the work, feeding and caring for the animals and planting and harvesting the hay.

For a while, the farm had a few horses and Edmunds gave riding lessons.

Edmunds, who grew up in Clover, said she believes the farm was a wonderful place to raise her children. “It’s just a better environment, and they have something they can do all the time,” she said.

She said the work was more labor intensive than it is today. Automation has improved efficiency. Turkeys that once had to have their beaks removed on the farm now arrive debeaked. They were once loaded for market one at a time from the field; now they are loaded in houses.

“It’s still a dirty job,” she said. “But it’s so much easier now.”

Edmunds said farming has been a good life.

“I wouldn’t trade it,” she said. “I thought when I lost my husband, what would I do? You think you can’t make it, but with the Lord helping and working, you can.”

___

Information from: The Herald, https://www.heraldonline.com

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