COVID connects family to century farm

The first time I visited Dock Southern Farms, I was greeted by the resident donkeys, Hee Haw and Banjo. They were a symbol of the farm that has been in Cindy Southern Marion’s family for more than a century. 

At that time, the farm had become overgrown and buildings fallen into disrepair. The pastures were grazed by a neighboring farmer’s cattle, who sometimes climbed onto the porch of the homeplace, built by Cindy’s great-grandfather in 1890. 

With only Cindy living on the farm the task of bringing life back to the farm was overwhelming. “I didn’t have help or any way to start putting everything back in place. It was more than I had the hands and time to do myself.”

That changed with COVID-19. Cindy’s three children, spread out across the country working in the entertainment industry, moved back home to Dobson when the industry came to a halt.

Oldest son Will, who is the only one with memories of riding on the tractor with his uncle, had been playing six nights a week in Austin, Texas. Daughter Peyton was living in New York City having just finished a fellowship at the Lincoln Center before starting a master’s program at NYU.  Youngest son Jack had recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and was working in the music industry while fronting his band, Jack Marion and the Pearl Snap Prophets

With her kids at home, Cindy gave them a list of a few things she wanted done around the farm.  “It was just a few things like cleaning out the shed, spreading some mulch, and cutting limbs.” As the siblings checked items off the list, they started adding tasks to it. Soon, the project turned from cleaning up the farm to revitalizing it. 

Since the siblings hadn’t grown up on a working farm, they learned a lot of skills on the fly. They moved pasture fencing, secured sheet metal on the shed, and cut down trees. Peyton showed off her chain saw skills in the introductory video she filmed for her graduate program, probably a first for a student at NYU. 

As the farm came back to life, the family decided to celebrate their work during the month of October by opening “Dock’s Pumpkin Patch” every weekend. They sold pumpkins and sweet potatatoes, had story time, live music, carnival games, local vendors, and professional photographers. “This community has been good to our family, so we’re really excited to welcome them to the farm,” said Jack.

Without COVID, Cindy doubts her children would have developed such a strong interest and attachment to their roots. Her oldest son agreed. “This land has been an anchor for our family for generations. And when things got really rough, it’s where we all ended up. I don’t think that was an accident.”

On my next visit I’ll be wearing my Dock Southern Farms T-shirt, which features the latest mascot of the farm, Willie Nelson. He’ll make his donkey ancestors proud.

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