100 years on the farm

Published 3:15 pm Monday, February 2, 2009

Some of Earl Baker’s earliest memories are picking cotton and going to church.

It’s a routine he has followed most of his life, working six days on the family farm and resting in a church pew on Sundays.

“I remember walking to church when I was two,” said Baker, who turned 100 years old last month. “I picked cotton when I was a year old.”

Earl Baker celebrated his big day Jan. 17 with family and friends at Harpersville United Methodist Church. His birthday is Jan. 19, 1909.

Baker comes from a large family and is the 11th of 14 children. Needless to say, the party had many more guests than candles on the cake.

“It was a big one [the party], but ain’t many people 100 years old,” said Baker.

The actual birthday celebration began back in October during Old Baker Farm’s annual Cotton Pickin’ Celebration. The annual event serves as a homecoming for the community and brings in thousands for clean fun, music and arts and crafts.

“We had a birthday party then too because so many people know my dad and love him,” said son Jerry Baker.

Earl Baker’s family has operated Old Baker Farm since the turn of the century. But the homestead’s history goes back even further, since the late 1700s, making it one of the oldest farms in Alabama.

Earl Baker bought the farm from his father in the 1940s. Papa Baker, as he was called, decided to sell the farm. When Earl caught wind of the plan, he approached his father about buying the land.

“When daddy found out about it, he said, ‘If you are going to sell it to anyone, Paw, sell it to me,’” said Jerry Baker.

Earl Baker and his late wife Ophelia picked cotton and gathered eggs for decades. When Jerry and his wife, Pam, took over the farm about 25 years ago, they changed things up a bit.

“The price you get for your commodities are just more than the expense,” said Jerry Baker. “You can’t make money. You can’t make a living. That’s the reason we have the big corporate farms.”

Today, the farm produces Christmas trees, pumpkins, corn and some cotton.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Earl Baker’s dedication to the land and work ethic.

“Three to four years ago, he could hoe as fast as me,” said Jerry Baker. “He always told me he wouldn’t retire until he turned 100.”

Earl Baker also enjoys the school groups that visit the farm throughout the spring and fall.

“Dad is a people person. He’ll get up in the morning and ask if the kids are coming today,” said Jerry Baker.

Jerry Baker attributes his father’s long life to three things:

“I think he’s very content. He doesn’t get upset. He eats the right things, and then I think it’s his faith. He always had faith in the Lord; without that I don’t think you could be a farmer.”

Old Baker Farm is located off Alabama 25 in Harpersville. For more information, call 672-7209.