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Staying power

Frosty Gregory and family run Double Century farm in Gallatin
Story and photos by: Chris Villines 1/6/2020

 

At their family’s Gallatin farm established in 1794, Frosty Gregory pays a quick visit to daughter Racheal to plot out the rest of day’s work before she heads off on the tractor.
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Story and photos by: Chris Villines

On March 24, 1956, a heavy frost resembling snow blanketed the ground in Sumner County. That occasion will forever be tied to a bouncing baby boy born on that day in Gallatin:

Frosty Gregory.

His given name is Foster, but you won’t find anyone around these parts calling him anything other than the moniker bestowed upon him by his grandfather.

“He saw that frost on the ground and named me Frosty right then,” the 63-year-old says. “And I’ve been Frosty ever since.”

There’s history to the name, and there’s certainly history to the fertile land Frosty, his wife of 31 years, Lori, their son John and daughter Racheal, and Frosty’s brother, Henry, care for with their family farming operation. John and Racheal are the eighth consecutive generation of the Gregory family to farm here, a lineage that dates all the way back to 1794.

The Double Century farm is the oldest remaining in Sumner County.

“There were two Double Century farms, but the other one was sold for development three or four years ago,” says Frosty. “My ancestors who settled this land came out of North Carolina. They had 12 children at the time and were expecting another one.”

From that beginning, through the Civil War — in which Frosty’s great-great-great grandfather was a Confederate soldier — and on to the present day, agriculture has been the central focus of the Gregory farm. And this way of life was ingrained in Frosty from an early age, when he and his siblings would help their father, Homer, tend to the farm’s tobacco, cattle, and hogs.

“We tried other things, too — whatever it took to make a dollar,” Frosty says. “Farming in the 1960s and ’70s was all about surviving. Money from tobacco was what raised us. The cattle part got bigger when I got out of high school. Daddy took me in, and we expanded our cattle program.”

It was clear to Frosty that farming was to be his life’s calling. He did briefly try the college route, juggling farm work with attending nearby Volunteer State Community College for two quarters, but “when it got to spring and it was time to start plowing, I didn’t go back. I knew where I belonged, and that was right here being a steward of this land.”

His mind made up, Frosty, 18 years old at the time, began charting his agricultural course.

“I went to the bank and borrowed $4,000 to buy some cattle,” he says. “I bought 40 head. Those cattle made me some money, and I’ve never looked back.”

Today, the main focus of Frosty and family’s operation is on cattle backgrounding. The Sumner Farmers Cooperative members — Frosty and Henry are past directors of the Co-op and John is on the board now — have several lots of cattle around the farm. Frosty, John, and Racheal deal with most of the day-to-day management of the cattle, while Henry, a skilled mechanic, welder, and electrician, spends the bulk of his time at the farm shop keeping all the equipment humming. Lori, with assistance from Racheal, handles the farm’s bookkeeping.

“Our main goal is to take mismanaged cattle and improve the value of them,” says Frosty. “You go through a health curve when you first buy them. We buy a lot of bulls, and they don’t have any immunity so we have to build up their health through vaccination. It’s not rocket science, but you’ve got to really be paying attention.

“I don’t have to know everything, but I do need to know one thing, and that’s the phone number of the person who does know.”

He counts the Co-op as part of the group he can reach out to for answers.

“We’re blessed in Sumner County,” he says. “Our Co-op is good. Our Extension office is good. Our Soil Conservation and Farm Service Agency folks are good. We deal with people who are really interested in helping us.”

That’s a bonus, for sure, one that Frosty says he hopes to take advantage of for years to come.

“People ask me, ‘When are you going to retire?’” he says. “I tell them, ‘I haven’t ever been to work.’ If you love what you do, then it’s not work. My family has inherited this land from past generations, and we intend to keep it going. We’ve got roots in the ground as deep as any oak tree around here.”



 
 
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