By Jonathan Worley
In just a matter of decades everything changed. The large number of family farms that were once located in Marietta have now gone. Sure there is still a good bit of farm land located around the Villa Rica Rd. area, but no farming is actually done on those properties. No, only one man in Marietta continues to make his living through farming. His name is Troy Shelley and he’s pretty much the only real farmer around anymore.
Upon arriving at the Shelley Farm at 2430 Burnt Hickory Rd., just past the Burnt Hickory Church of Christ, I noticed just how big the property is. There was a large dirt area to my right where I could tell plants were meant to grow (although none had started growing yet). I looked over to the left a little and there was another gardening area. This one had a few plants but not many. I couldn’t tell what the plants were. This area also had about four or five metal rods planted into the ground that were probably about five feet in height. On top of the rods were sprinklers which were currently in use watering that area. In between the gardens there was a narrow dirt road leading to some where in the woods. To my immediate left was the white house where Shelley and his wife live.
When I pulled my truck up, Shelley was just coming back from the far end of the twelve acre property. I identified myself and reminded him we’d spoke on the phone the previous day and he lead me straight into his garage. This was the one room in the house where he kept his inventory on display. At the front of the garage were display shelves with tomatoes and other sorts of vegetables on them. Upon entering I noticed another shelf to my left with jars of various kinds of jam that had been canned on the farm. Next to that shelf was a counter with a big basket on it. The basket had plastic shopping bags in it for customers to take their purchases home in. Next to the basket was the cash register. At the very back of the garage there were three or four of those refrigeration units with the glass doors on the front like you see at the grocery store. They had various types of fruit in them. Shelley and I sat down behind the shelf with the tomatoes and other vegetables on it. He had a big fan on at the time and it was so loud I almost couldn’t hear him speak. By Shelley’s feet was a box of corn that hadn’t been shucked yet.
Once we sat down we got to talking right away. “I guess I been farming since I was six”, he said with some certainty. He never really did stop farming, at least not for long. After the army he worked at Lockheed for several years and farmed on the side. Since his retirement from Lockheed the 90-year-old has been farming full time using three and a half to four acres of the 12 acre property he shares with his full grown kids (who have their own residences at other parts of the property). While he doesn’t have any farm animals he does grow several types of fruits, vegetables and herbs in multiple gardens on various areas of the property.
When asked what he thought about the number of farms in Cobb County being less than it used to be he said, “The lack of competition seemed good at first though I wish there was more now”. He is somewhat encouraged by the increased level of frugality permeating the county due to the current state of the economy. This has caused people to grow their own food more than they used to in order to save money. In regards to the area being more urbanized than in the past he stated emphatically, “I love it. We got a grocery store near here and a Home Depot near here and I don’t have to drive all the way out to get things”.
Shelley says he will continue farming because he loves to work. It certainly shows with all that he’s got growing on his farm. He’s managed to keep the farm going with the help of his children and it doesn’t look like they’re going to stop anytime soon..
About the Author: Jonathan Worley is a free lance writer who is a Marietta native and a graduate of Reinhardt College