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With farm on the line, family fights through pandemic to hold on their history

Posted at 11:53 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 13:59:29-05

BLACKSTONE, Va. — The Jones family has had to adapt to survive and maintain their longstanding farm in Blackstone, Virginia, especially amid the pandemic.

“This is a relationship that you’ve been in all your life and to try and figure out how to live without it is just, I mean you hear stories about people who sold the farm and didn’t get off their sofa for the next few years. It’s just soul crushing,” said TR Jones.

The farm has been in Jones’ family for 270 years. That’s 270 years of his family’s blood, sweat and tears in the soil. It’s not just his job, it’s his family legacy

“Nobody wants to be the one to lose the farm,” said Jones.

Farming has never been an easy business and it certainly hasn’t the last few years. The Jones family has had to adapt. It started growing tobacco in the 1700s and then switched to dairy in the 1950s.

That means milking over 200 cows at 3 a.m. and then again in the afternoon.

“We milk them in five and five sections and in the entire parlor, we can actually milk 20 cows at a time,” said Brittany Jones.

A little over a year ago, they decided to bet on themselves again and become a creamery, processing their own milk and making a little ice cream. That’s when Richlands Creamery was born.

TR runs the farm with his wife Brittany and his dad, while his sister runs the creamery. But to build the creamery, they had to mortgage the family’s legacy for their future.

“We basically put up that whole 270 years against that loan, saying we believe this is going to work,” said Jones.

That was before the pandemic. The creamery has been treading water, but they’ve been hit hard just like everyone.

“We were kind of getting revved up. We had just gotten ourselves into some Food Lions. All our retail stores, that wholesale purchase from us, were lined up to start buying ice cream, our restaurants were lined up to buy milk and cream, coffee shops, all those things. Then COVID started, which oddly enough was not in any of those feasibility studies,” said Jones.

The Jones family is in a tough situation, a situation a lot of families in America are in. Everything they have in this world is threatened by the pandemic.

“It’s been difficult because we lost those wholesale accounts to those coffee shops, restaurants, donut shops, ice cream shops that should have all been open this past summer, and they weren’t,” said Jones.

But just like millions of Americans, they might be down, but don’t count the Jones family out.

“To say that I can just move on to the next job, walk away, do something else, you don’t just walk away from that and say, didn't work out, on to the next job," said Jones.

The Jones family is going to keep doing what they've been doing for almost 300 years and for the last year, keep working hard, taking care of their cows and making milk and ice cream for their community.

They're going to keep fighting, like so many other American farmers.

“You have this group of people who should be run through the mud, but when you sit down and talk to them, they’re so happy to talk to you, they’re so optimistic that tomorrow is going to bring better things and that the journey behind is essentially forged them for the road ahead. And I don’t know that there’s a group of people like that anywhere else in the world,” said Jones.