Vannatta Farms, Inc.
Bobby W. Vannatta
The Vannatta Farm, Inc., which is ten miles north of Shelbyville, is one of the few incorporated Century Farms. Established by James and Jerusha Clardy Vannatta in 1850, the farm initially contained 100 acres of land on which the founders grew wheat, cotton, and corn. They also managed a herd of cattle and their land was the site of the local post office.
Married twice, James Vannatta fathered ten children and his son George W. Vannatta became the farm’s second generation owner. George and his wife Fanny Swain raised five children. While George farmed the same amount of land and produced the same commodities as his father, he took advantage of the popularity of cotton in the late nineteenth century and “built and operated the first cotton gin in the 5th district,” making his farm property much more valuable.
The founders’ grandson, William Cleveland Vannatta, was the third owner of the family farm. W. C. increased his acreage to 320 acres. “A successful farmer always looking to find new techniques in farming practices,” he used modern farm machinery wherever possible and “operated one of the first wheat threshers in Bedford County.” Vannatta also realized the importance of efficient transportation to a successful agricultural operation and he assisted “in the construction of the first road between Murfreesboro and Shelbyville.”
W. C. wed Ophelia Hardison and they were the parents of nine children. Their son Marvin (Pete) Vannatta was the farm’s next operator. Pete, his wife Elizabeth Walls and their four children introduced new crops such as crimson clover and began a dairy business. Like his father, Pete continued to modernize the place, purchasing the county’s first cotton picker and remaining active in the county’s Soil Conservation Service.
In 1964, Bobby W. Vannatta acquired the farm’s original 100 acres to which he has added 752 acres of land. Vannatta, the great great grandson of the founders, incorporated the farm’s operations in 1980.