Gillis Family Farm celebrates nine generations through farming and agritourism

The Farm Family of the Day program is a new addition to the N.C. State Fair. The program recognizes 11 farm families – one for every day of the State Fair – who work hard everyday to impact our state’s agriculture industry. Families either nominated themselves or were nominated by members of the community. Thanks to Tractor Supply Company for sponsoring the program, which will run from Oct. 14-24.

Gillis Family Farm, located in western Cumberland County, dates back to the mid-1700’s and spans over nine generations of the Gillis family. In fact, the newest member of the ninth generation, Lydia Ann Gillis, was born on Sept. 13. In addition to their farm in Cumberland County, the family also farms land in Hoke and Robeson counties.

Jackson Lee – 9th Generation

Gillis Family Farm currently grows a variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and collards, as well as raises beef cattle on their four properties, Gillis Hill Farm, Gillis Farms Inc., Contentment Farm and Gillis Hill Road Produce. Additionally, they have about 350 acres of forestland that is managed for timber and wildlife production.

The house across the road from the farm is the original homeplace of the Gillis family, however, the current ice cream shop actually served as the homeplace for the grandfather of current owner John Gillis Sr. The farm holds a lot of history that is still celebrated by the family today through their farming operation and agritourism events.

In a normal year, the Gillis family is highly involved with agritourism, averaging 4,000 school kids, parents, teachers, church groups and senior citizens on their farm.

“Years ago, people would come visit the farm and say, ‘my parents had a farm’ and a few years later people would say, ‘my grandparents had a farm,’ but now, many individuals are completely disconnected from a farm and farming communities continue to shrink,” said the Gillis family. “We would like to be a part of educating future generations in what it’s like to be on a farm and what a farm provides to consumers.”

Visitors to the farm can not only learn about all the products grown by the family, but also enjoy some local ice cream, view the sunflower field and take a stroll through the corn maze. In addition to hosting customers on their farm, the Gillis family also rents their barn out for weddings and is very involved with their local food pantry at the Galatia Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Today, the farm is being recognized as the Oct. 14 N.C. State Fair Farm Family of the Day not only for its hard work, but also for the educational opportunities they offer through their tours and outreach events.

According to Wayne Collier, Chairman of the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District Board, “Gillis Family Farm is truly an oasis for the city population, which can have a profound impact on their viewpoint of agriculture.”

People of all ages visit the farm on a daily basis and the Gillis family takes pride in educating them on the importance of our state’s No. 1 industry and eating local. “In addition to educating the community and leaving the land better than we found it, we really want to be a witness to our Christian faith and show the community true family values,” the family said. For this reason, Gillis Family Farms is well-known for creating a positive atmosphere that families can not only enjoy but feel comfortable in.

The Gillis family can most likely be found visiting the agriculture exhibits this year at the N.C. State Fair.

“We love the N.C. State Fair because it is an opportunity for families statewide to be exposed to agriculture,” they said. “People need to see where their food comes from and what better way to show that than to showcase the products that are produced in North Carolina by North Carolina farmers in these exhibits.”

If you happen to see the Gillis family on the grounds today make sure you thank them for their hard work and congratulate them on being nominated as a Farm Family of the Day!

About Rollercoaster

"Life is short, so do the things you love with the people you love." Rollercoaster is the fair-themed nickname for Taylor Parrish, an information and communications specialist in the Public Affairs Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. An alumni of N.C. State University and former Marketing and Sales Assistant with Scott Farms, a sixth-generation family farm out of Lucama, NC, she is no stranger to the world of agriculture. Football and singing are her biggest passions. While at the fair, her "must do" items are a pineapple smoothie from Tropical Delight and a ride on the Fireball.

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