When 73-year-old Douglas Daye was a young man, fresh out of high school and headed into the Marine Corps, he swore he’d never come back to Rougemont, North Carolina. But his time serving in Vietnam changed his mind. He met men from all over the United States, many of whom came from sharecropping families. He heard about their families’ economic struggles and realized their situations starkly contrasted what he experienced on his grandfather’s farm.
Daye decided, “If I make it back to the world, I may go back to Rougemont.”
Daye’s grandfather, Lucious Glenn, bought a rocky 40 acres in 1903. Daye says his grandfather walked the 18 miles to downtown Durham to register the deed and walked back home. By the time he died, Glenn had amassed more than 600 acres. In 1981, Daye inherited 24 acres, including the site with the family’s original homestead.
A Return Home
Daye’s decision to return home and farm the land qualified LM&D Farm to be recognized as a Century Farm. To be eligible under the program offered by North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, a farm must have had continuous ownership by a family for 100 years or more. The Century Farm program, which marks its 50th anniversary in 2020, has recognized more than 2,000 farms across the state. The state agency also runs a Bicentennial Farm program, which started in 2016 and has recognized about three dozen farms.
Daye’s accomplishment is even more noteworthy, as he is the only person of color to own a Century Farm in Durham County. In 2018, Daye went further to protect the land by acquiring a farmland conservation easement through Durham County’s Farmland Protection Program, which means his 24 acres cannot be subdivided or developed.
A Century of Hard Work
Daye credits the Century Farm honor to his grandparents, Lucious and Mary. Lucious was a smart, hardworking man who never learned to read or write. Mary was a 1904 graduate of Bennett College, a historically black college in Greensboro. Daye says his grandmother’s formal education and the $10 a month she earned as a teacher saved the farm during the Depression and other tough times.
“If it hadn’t been for my grandmother, they would have beat him out of this land,” Daye says.
Kathryn Spann, a neighbor of Daye’s and a lawyer-turned-goat-farmer, was the person who suggested Daye seek the Century Farm designation. She was inspired by his grandfather’s story.
“What an incredible achievement to become a landowner at that time for a person of African-American descent,” Spann says.
Daye describes his grandparents’ farm as largely self-sufficient. His grandfather grew tobacco as a cash crop and raised animals and cultivated vegetables to feed the family. Today, Daye raises beef cattle, grows hay and tends a small garden. He also heats his home with firewood that he cuts himself, and his land is dotted with fruit trees and grape vines.
Of the more than 600 acres that his grandparents amassed and passed down to nine children and 62 grandchildren, only 20 acres have been sold. “All the kids who were raised on the farm still have theirs,” Daye says. “We all know how he got it and how he struggled to keep it.”
Daye has even been approached by potential buyers. He turned away one man urging him to sell the farmland to the state and retain 1 acre for himself. When Daye suggested an outrageous price, the man responded, “Do you know what you’re asking?” Daye turned those words back on the man: “Do you know what you’re asking? Some things you cannot place a dollar value on.”