Fall is harvest
time.  Since the first settlers came to
the area in the late 1700s agriculture has played a major role in the local
economy.  Early families grew their own
food and crops for their livestock.  They
also took any extra crops and livestock to markets in Asheville or Greenville
each fall for much needed cash.  They
income allowed them to buy goods they couldn’t grow or make, as well as
additional land and to pay taxes. 

They chiefly
raised hogs, along with cattle and sheep (mainly for the wool), as well as
chickens.  Corn was the leading crop,
along with beans, pumpkins, winter squash, cabbage, potatoes, oats and rye. 

Haying time at Cathey’s Creek Farm in the early 1900s.  
Front from left:  Leroy Waldrop, Tom Galloway, Rueben
Bracken, Pete Lance, Lewis Waldrop, Jim Waldrop and 
Mannie Waldrop.  Two little boys: Hovey and Arthur Waldrop.
Back from left:  Mays Waldrop on the haystack, Van Buren 
Waldrop and Ray Waldrop standing in the wagon, and 
Robert Waldrop on the car hood.

Throughout the 1800s agriculture grew steadily and continued to be the chief
source of income in Transylvania County.  There were 365 farms in 1870, 734 in 1880 and
just over 1000 by 1900.  The farms also
grow in total acreage over the years. 

The 20th century began with a shift in the local economy—many
were working in the logging and lumber industry and by 1940 manufacturing jobs
lured others away from farming full-time.
 Real estate prices in Brevard were relatively
high but farm owners couldn’t sell their property for enough to entice them to sell
and move to town so most continued to farm on a small scale.

Agriculture in the county was also changing.  Dairy farming expanded from the 1940s
through the 1960s.  In the 1950s and 60s
the nursery business blossomed—with gladiolas, ornamental shrubs and trees, and
Christmas trees being leading products. 
By 1982 the top grossing farm product in Transylvania County was trout.

Today agricultural remains important but the type of farming has
changed.  2017 statistics list 215 farms
in the county.  They are smaller, at an average
size of 68 acres and the products have changed again.  The leading crops are those that sell at
farmers market and roadside stands—vegetables, fruit, berries, melons and
flowers.  Greenhouse and nursery
products, such as ornamental plants, shrubs, trees, Christmas trees are also
grown throughout the county.  The leading
livestock product is aquaculture—trout farms and fish hatcheries; followed by
beef, sheep, goats, poultry and eggs. 

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the
Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. For more
information, comments, or suggestions contact NCRoom staff at [email protected]
or 828-884-1820.

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