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THE EARLY YEARS OF GRIGSBY FAMILY FARMS

EAST TENNESSEE

Grigsby Family Farms has a rich history of hard work and ingenuity dating back over 75 years.  During the summer of 1940, Ralph Grigsby, Jr. began his life as a farmer on a 100 acre farm in Whitesburg, Tennessee which had been the homestead of his grandparents.  Ralph, Jr. farmed with his father Ralph, Sr.  In September 1940, Ralph Jr. married Elgeva Potter and she came to live on the farm with his parents.  The Grigsby’s raised cattle along with crops for feed by using mules and a wagon.  Ralph Jr. milked cows by hand and sold the milk to Pet Dairy for their “living money,” and ran steers to graze acreage as an investment.  In 1942, Ralph Jr.’s brother, Sam, joined the farming operation.  The next generation began at the farm in 1944 as Ralph, Jr. and Elgeva welcomed their first child, Robert Ralph Grigsby III (Robert).

The Grigsby’s sold the 100 acre farm in 1944 and purchased 300 acres also in Whitesburg on Bent Creek.  The Bent Creek farm had no electricity to the house or the barn.  The Grigsby’s farmed on Bent Creek until 1960 bringing electricity to the house and barn and creating the first Grade “A” dairy in Hamblen County, Tennessee.  The Grigsby’s family expanded at Bent Creek as they had three more children: Geraldine (Gerry), Joel, and Alan.

In 1959, the Grigsby’s purchased 650 acres in Lenoir City, Tennessee which included a 300 acre island in the middle of the Tennessee River.  Ralph Jr. and Sam used their business ingenuity and bargained with the county highway department to purchase and move an old highway bridge from Hamblen County to the farm as a way to access the island.  Ralph Jr. and Sam’s younger brother Bill restored the Lenoir City farm, eventually selling it to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the late 1960s. 

In 1960, the Grigsby Brothers  purchased the 600 acre Hamilton Place on Nolichucky River bottom land  in Lowland, Tennessee.  Ralph Jr., Elgeva, and family lived in a circa 1799 limestone house which they named “The Rock House.”  The Grigsby’s refurbished the Hamilton Place with Ralph, Sr. as a minority partner and purchased 500 more acres.  In 1964, the Grigsby’s partnered with Valleydale Meat Company by installing a mile long concrete feed lot which could feed up to 10,000 cattle at a time.

The Grigsby’s sold the Lowland farm in 1968 and purchased a dairy in Cocke County, Tennessee.  This was also an operation in disrepair so the Grigsby brothers built a new dairy barn and rehabilitated the property.  Within that same year, the Grigsby brothers purchased 2 sections of land near Belle Glade, Florida planted all in sod.  The Grigsby’s removed sod from the property to pay the purchase price and later added sugar cane on the Braddock Ranch.  With this purchase, Ralph and Elgeva then moved to Belle Glade, Florida.