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Robertson County, TN: Growing the Future

Region's agribusiness sector continues to see advancement and change.

By Kim Madlom on June 4, 2022

Agriculture in Robertson County, TN
Michael Conti

With more than 1,200 farms covering 200,000+ acres of farmland producing tobacco, corn, wheat, soybeans, grazing cattle and other commodities, it’s not surprising that Robertson County is the third-largest agricultural county in Tennessee.

And while the region is rooted in this industry, its age makes it far from stagnant. In fact, many agriculture-related businesses and farmers in Robertson County are getting innovative, sparking evolution and change and prompting great growth in this sector.

Take, for instance, Triple J Farms, a thriving family-run operation that continues to be passed down from generation to generation. Today, it is run by fourth-generation farmer Lee Bagwell, who took over in 2018, along with his wife, Halie, and his father.

Lee and Halie Bagwell
Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation

Meet the Bagwells

Lee and Halie Bagwell were named Tennessee Farm Bureau’s 2021 Young Farmers & Ranchers of the Year, an honor based on farm and financial records from 2020 as well as leadership on the farm, in the community and in the Farm Bureau. Their farm is a diversified row-crop operation consisting of more than 1,300 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and tobacco.

The Bagwells plan to keep the tradition going and pass the farm along to a fifth generation in the future. “It’s everyone’s goal when it comes to farming to have something to hand down to our children,” Lee says.

He and Halie have two sons, John Lee and Jackson Cole. While farming often has deep historical roots in a family, it also sees constant change. “We’re always looking into ways to better the farm,” Lee says, such as using global positioning satellite technology to pinpoint where fertilizer may be needed or where crop populations should be increased or decreased.

Sarah Bellos, owner of Stony Creek Colors in Springfield, TN

A Colorful Future in Springfield

Growing in a slightly different direction is Springfield’s Stony Creek Colors, a company that for nearly 10 years has invested in research and development to bring plant-based indigo dye to the forefront, and farmers are at the heart of the business. Producing indigo creates another income stream for farmers, and it improves soil health when planted in rotation with other crops, such as corn and tobacco.

“We envision a vibrant fashion industry that values clean and natural colors used as a source of restoration, bringing life to the places it’s grown, dyed with and worn,” says Sarah Bellos, founder and CEO of Stony Creek.

And the company is seeing great success. It has partnerships with top brands, such as Patagonia, Wrangler and J.Crew.

Harnessing Hemp in Tennessee

Yet another example of innovation in agriculture can be seen when one looks to the Gunn family, who has been farming the same land in Robertson County since 1904.

Jonathan Gunn worked on the family farm growing up and pursued an agronomy degree. He and his friend, Jesse Riggins, who has a background in chemistry and health care, dreamt of one day owning their own agriculture business within the hemp industry.

Along with Jonathan’s brother, Josh, and his wife, Kathy, who brought more than two decades of experience in agriculture and business to the operation, today, their company, Gunny’s, grows, processes and markets hemp-based CBD products.

“We are focused on making products that change and improve people’s lives. That’s what motivates us.”

Kathy Gunn

“One of the coolest things about our company is that we have the proper pieces in place to be able to do what we are doing,” says Kathy Gunn, noting their combined expertise in farming, science, health care and business. Mix their know-how, passion and commitment, and the result, Kathy says, is an exceptional product.

The CBD industry is thriving across the country since hemp was legalized by the federal Farm Bill. Advocates say CBD products help with sleep, relieve muscle aches and improve skin, among other benefits.

What sets Gunny’s apart is vertical integration, meaning they grow the hemp, extract oil from the plants, distill the oil to a clean and pure state, and make the final products. “We do everything from start to finish,” Kathy says. “There’s a trust factor between us and our customers.”

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