Fire is no match for farming resiliency
By: Bob Sloan
If you want to learn about resiliency, just ask a farmer.
Resilience means knowing how to cope in spite of setbacks, or barriers, or limited resources. The farmer knows how to persevere and endure through hard times.
Resilience is a measure of how much you want something and how much you are willing to overcome to get it. Resolve and fortitude are firmly planted in the character of the farmer. The farmer, already familiar with hard work and long hours, rolls up his or her sleeves, pulls themselves up by the bootstraps, and keeps right on plowing when tough times roll around.
Resilience is about finding the determination and strength to move forward when you are dealt an unexpected blow, like the one that hit Griggs Farm of Hartsville a little less than two weeks ago.
On the afternoon of Sept. 21, a fire started in one tobacco barn quickly spread to another and then another and then another. When the blaze was finally put out, nine of the farm’s 12 barns were left in smoldering ruins. Add the loss of farming equipment and the total damage is expected to be in excess of $200,000.
“Devastating,” was the word used by Tim Griggs, who owns and operates the farm along with his father, Robert Griggs, brother Bobby Griggs, and cousin William Hendrix.
Trucks and firefighters from four departments responded to the fire, which they believe began between 3 and 4 p.m. Griggs said he and some others initially tried to put the fire out themselves but quickly realized they could not.
The fire was finally contained about nine that evening, but the damage had been done. The barns were used for curing tobacco. When full, each barn was able to hold roughly 2,700 pounds of tobacco. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 pounds of tobacco was lost in the fire.
Griggs said investigators are still determining what caused the blaze, but he thinks it was simply accidental.
As news of the fire spread, Griggs said neighbors not only offered help in fighting the fire but also offered the use of equipment and other assistance to help with his family’s farming operation.
“It just shows what kind of community we have,” he said.
Located in the Byrdtown community just north of Hartsville, Griggs Farm began over 100 years ago by Jim Griggs, Tim’s great-grandfather. In all, the farm covers about 130 acres. Its primary crop is tobacco, but it also grows corn, vegetables, wheat, hay, cotton and soybeans. The Griggs family also operates a convenience store, Griggs Grocery, and an adjoining restaurant, Miriam's Kitchen. Both are located on Bethlehem Road, across from the farm. Neither was damaged in the fire.
Griggs Farm has stood the test of time for more than a century. It has seen both good times and bad. There have been droughts and flooding, too much rain and not enough, storms, hurricanes, possibly a tornado, and maybe even a fire. There have been recessions and depressions, times of plenty and times of want. And through it all, the farm and the family have found a way to make it work.
“As with any farm, some years were harder than others and sometimes our patience and perseverance was tested, but still we trudged on,” said Griggs' daughter, Jessica, in a statement on a Go Fund Me account she set up following the fire. As of Saturday, the fund has generated $3,000 in contributions.
The community has rallied around the Griggs family in their time of need and will most assuredly continue to do so. Farming communities, to a large degree, are like an extended family. You pitch in and help each other out. The Griggs have certainly been there for others in the community over the years, and the community is now returning the favor.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of love and support and the prayers from our community,” said Jessica Griggs.
The Griggs family, with resolve, hard work, and the help of their extended family, will most assuredly trudge on. They are farmers and they are resilient.
On Monday, less than 48 hours after the devastating fire, the Griggs were not looking around wondering what to do. They knew what needed to be done. They were busy loading trailers with what remained of their tobacco.
There was work to be done.