06/21/09 — A homegrown tradition: Fathers and sons have worked Wayne County's land for generations

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A homegrown tradition: Fathers and sons have worked Wayne County's land for generations

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 21, 2009 2:00 AM

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Delanor Daw, left, Paul Daw, right, and Zachary Daw, 2, stand among the rows of tobacco in one of the 1,200 acres of fields owned and farmed by the Daw family's third and fourth generations.

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John McClenny, left, Charlie McClenny, center, and Murray McClenny, right, take a break on the bed of a truck parked at the 2,000-acre crop and hog farm.

In the hectic age of Blackberries, meetings, mini-vans and soccer practice, many families don't see each other as often as they would like.

But some dads not only get to spend Father's Day with their children, they work with their sons every day on the same land where their own fathers, and even grand-fathers, planted their first crops.

Paul Daw knows there's a lot of history to the farm he and his father, Delanor Daw, manage on a daily basis. His great-grandfather Jessie Daw bought property in northeast Wayne County more than half a century ago, and grandfather N.J. Daw added more property to their holdings over the years.

Since then, the Daws' farm has expanded to include more than 1,200 acres of crops and livestock, and Paul Daw was recently named Outstanding Young Farmer by the Goldsboro Jaycees, just as his grandfather N.J. was recognized with the same honor many years ago.

Even as a young teenager, Daw was certain that he wanted to follow his father's footsteps in the fields. Delanor Daw knew his son would face what could sometimes be a very hard road, but there was never any doubt in Paul's mind, even as a high school student, what he wanted to do for a living.

"It's kind of one of those things you know you were born to do. It's been handed on down to me. I appreciate my father, he's been good to me and my sister," Daw said.

Now he's looking forward to passing on the accumulated knowledge and experience of four generations of farmers to a fifth generation. His own two-year-old son, Zachary, is growing up on their family's land, just as his own father and grandfather did.

The two business partners don't always agree on everything, Delanor Daw said, but sharing their life's work has kept father and son close.

"We can disagree on things, but the common thread is the farm, and that has kind of kept that bond there throughout the years," Daw said.

And they plan to gather with their relatives for a big Sunday dinner to celebrate Father's Day.

Down in the southern part of Wayne County, Smith Chapel residents Charlie McClenny and his twin sons, John and Murray, have more excuse than many people might have to not see their family very often. They work long hours, from early mornings to late nights.

But together, the father and sons team manages almost 2,000 acres of land and a farming operation that produces corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans, tobacco and hogs, and the three even find the time to serve together with the Smith Chapel Volunteer Fire Department.

It was evident early on that John and Murray would come back to carry on the family legacy, their father said.

"When they were about 3 or 4 years old, in the summertime as we were barning tobacco and all, they would do the things they could do, pick up leaves around the barn," Charlie McClenny said.

The brothers graduated from N.C. State, their father's alma mater, with degrees in agribusiness and returned home to combine their new knowledge with their father's experience.

John takes care of the hogs and harvesting, and Murray does the planting and handles the cotton while their father oversees the farm operations. Though they all have individual jobs, they also chip in together to get everything done at the end of the day.

"We can all work and get along. Some families don't get along in business or anything else, but we each have kinds of things we're responsible for. But yet at the same time, we all work together," Charlie McClenny said. "Bringing them back in, they've got new ideas and a different outlook on things sometimes that helps in the business."

And the family ties to the business of farming are part of what made the brothers return home to carry on the tradition, John McClenny said.

"My granddad farmed, and my dad and granddad farmed together," he said. "I really enjoy it, I don't like being tied down to a desk, I'd much rather be outside."

Together they've helped to build a good foundation because of the work their father and grandfather started, and Murray McClenny's son, Gavin, 2, might very well one day be the next McClenny to become a farmer.

"That's up to him. He really loves it now," he said.

If Gavin does decide to work with his father, uncle and grandfather, he would have the chance to experience the special kind of bond that comes with being part of a farming family.

"If you can't work for your family, I don't know that you'd get along with anybody else. It's a rare opportunity to go to work knowing that your employer really cares for you," Murray McClenny said.

His brother agreed that their father and grandfather's dedication to farming has helped them get where they are today.

"It just makes me realize and appreciate that where I am now is a direct result of him, because of the farming, and every aspect of my life," John McClenny said.

And like families across the country, on Father's Day the McClennys will be honoring the working partnership, the friendship and the special bond between fathers and their children.

"We'll be together doing something, I'm sure, we always are. We try to be together on special days," Charlie McClenny said.