Haskel Adamson knows two truths on widely different yet connected spectrums that have served him well throughout his lifetime: most folks are way too busy in their modern lives seeking wealth and in the process lose their family values. And what kind of sandy loamy soil AND what altitude grows the best tomatoes anyone has ever put in their mouths!
You might wonder how those truths are connected but it was actually simple when Haskel explained them.
"I was raised plowing mules when I was really too young to even hold up the plow," he recalled. "So Daddy traded the mule for a horse—a red horse with a star on her face named Dixie—so I’d have less trouble.
"We had that closeness growing up on the farm. We depended on each other. We worked from daylight til dark and then we went to bed. I never had time to fool around with drugs or even watch TV. We didn’t even have a television until I was a senior in high school.
"But it was a wonderful way of life. We didn’t have much money but we had plenty to eat. We had cows for beef, pork, eggs. Everybody had a smokehouse.
"We learned responsibility. We didn’t ask what work had to be done. We just knew what work was there and we’d better do it.
"I was born in 1941 but Daddy was still remembering the Depression. Nowadays, most kids don’t do anything but sit in front of the TV or in front of the Internet bringing all the things of the world into their homes. We just didn’t have time for any of that if we’d had it. There were just too many other things to do!"
Haskel grew up on Straight Mountain, the son of J.R. and Verdie, with his two sisters, Ernestine and Shirley.
Tomatoes and cotton were king, and the Straight Mountain and Chandler Mountain altitudes and cooler nights were the perfect atmosphere for both crops.
He attended Appalachian school until his senior year. Back then Blount County schools started in mid-summer, then got out a month for "cotton picking" and then resumed their studies later in the fall.
"The boll weevil had just about done in the cotton crops and we’d contracted to grow pimento peppers. Right when school started was when Daddy needed me. So I told him I’d stay out of school and help. Then when Oneonta school started (the more modern "city" school had split from the county system and adopted the more usual regular school term with no time for crop picking), I hitchhiked to school every morning and back home every afternoon, said Haskel. "After Christmas, I transferred back to Appalachian with my class and graduated in 1959."
Haskel married and began pastoring churches, primarily in Blount County (he now pastors West End Baptist in Cleveland), but he never stayed on a "public" job long. One stretch of eight years was the longest.
"I wanted to be available when my congregations needed me," he explained, although most were rural churches who could only afford bi-vocational pastors.
"I remember when I was growing up and there was a death in the community we simply took the mule to the barn and that’s where he stayed until that person was buried. It just seemed farming was more flexible for me."
When his first wife suffered heart problems in 1985, he made an even more concerted effort to spend quality time with her so they enjoyed farming and going to flea markets and farmer’s markets to sell and trade.
"We didn’t get rich but we made a living," he stated.
His first wife passed away and Haskel married Betty four years ago and the farming life continues.
About 40 years ago, Haskel moved to Ebell Mountain, now more widely known as Palisades Park Mountain, and he found the elevation almost the same as his much loved Straight Mountain.
While in the past he’s hauled and sold vegetables all over the Southeast and even to Michigan, he’s found growing and selling locally is just as profitable and he can grow vegetables that are much better to eat!
"I do it naturally," he explained. "These tomatoes aren’t fertilized too much and don’t have the water poured onto them like the commercial crops do now. I grow a garden variety instead of something that’s for commercial growing and would be shipped across the country. I just grow them the ole-timey way and sell them at Blount Farmer’s Market."
The wonderful climate and older growing methods are great for the peaches and strawberries Haskel also grows and there are always some pole beans and other goodies on his market table as well.
But it may be as the "gourd man" that Haskel is most widely-known. A few years ago, Mr. and Mrs. James Swann moved from Straight Mountain across the road from the Adamson’s farm, bringing their love of growing gourds with them.
Haskel wouldn’t grow gourds until Mr. Swann no longer could farm and then Haskel began growing them at James’ urging.
Now he grows just about every kind of gourd imaginable from bottle-neck to those used in making Purple Martin houses. He plants them in the spring and, unlike some other growers, allows them to dry in the fields until he’s ready to plant again. Then the past year’s crop is harvested and sold to crafts people all over the United States.
Haskel has even invented a telescoping Martin gourd pole about five years ago and he sells that easy set up, complete with gourds for the houses, for $125!
So if you want to talk vegetables, gourds or Martins, or you need a little more information on how you can have a simple but fulfilling life, you can just drop by the Adamson’s farm at 3455 Ebell Road off U.S. 231 between Oneonta and Cleveland—but you might want to phone them at (205) 625-5040 first.
You can just look for the two story house —- built by Haskel himself of lumber cut and planed from his property there —- the house with the gourds piled in the front yard!
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.