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Shared strength

Camden’s Linda Leonard credits her strong work ethic to her mother, a sentiment Linda’s adult sons share about her
Story and photo by: Sarah Geyer 3/22/2019

 

This field is part of the 100 acres where Linda’s sons plant wheat and rye for hay. Jack usually takes a week’s vacation when it’s time to cut, and in five days he and West have about 650 rolls in covered storage. (Photo provided by family).
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Linda Leonard can’t help but be a strong woman. It’s in her genes.

Her mother, Margie, was also a formidable force of nature, running the local feed store, rearing five children, and raising cattle, hogs, and row crops on the family’s Benton County farm.

“I owe everything I am today to my mother,” says the firstborn and only daughter. “She instilled in me the importance of God, family, and work for a fulfilling life.”

Similar statements are echoed often by Linda’s two adult sons.

“Mom’s support has meant the world to me,” says her oldest son, Jack, adding that he definitely shares two of his mother’s personality traits — her hard-working nature and her tendency to always say what’s on her mind.

“There’s another [trait] we share, too,” says Linda. “A love for and connection to the land. And I share all three with my mother, along with her dogged determination and will power.”

Those characteristics became apparent when Margie and her husband, Sam, opened the Stockyard Feed Store in Camden not long after moving their family from Johnson City to a Benton County farm.

Although both husband and wife owned the business, Margie, for the most part, managed the operation on her own. The matriarch worked hard and expected her children to do the same, too, whether in the store, on the farm, or at a part-time job.

“My mother raised hogs so I could go to college,” says Linda. “She would tell me, ‘The female’s not made to put the roof on the house but, in case you have to, you need an education to support yourself.’”

Linda heeded her mother’s advice, first receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin and then earning a doctorate in pharmacy from Samford University.

Following graduation, Linda began a budding career, fell in love, married, and gave birth to son Jack. The marriage, unfortunately, didn’t last, and Linda decided to move with her 3-year-old back to Camden.

“While I worked, Jack stayed with my mom at the feed mill,” she says. “When he wasn’t playing at the corn mill or building forts in the hay, he was listening to the salt of the earth, our farmers.”

Eventually, Linda fell in love and remarried. With the addition of son West, the couple decided to buy a farm for their growing family.

“We purchased a small farm just a mile from my parents’,” says Linda. “It had been in the same family for 100 years, and it was divided and sold at auction. Since then, I’ve been able to buy back much of that original farmland.”

Unfortunately, the marriage ended, and Linda was once again the lone provider for her family.

“Life makes us who we are,” she says. “My mother had to be strong. And with some of life’s knocks, I had to be strong. I was thrown into a situation with the farm loan where I had to work really hard to keep our home.”

Linda worked as much as possible, often clocking as many as 80 hours a week.

“My children never felt neglected, though,” she says. “Every day we ate a meal together, even if it was just a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of chicken noodle soup.”

In 2005, the seasoned pharmacist took a leap of faith into business ownership. She opened her own store, Main Street Drug, in nearby Waverly.

Over the years, Linda was able to purchase additional land surrounding her farm, allowing her sons to eventually own acreage connected to their mother’s land.

Today, the family operates LGW Farms on their combined 850 acres, where they run a commercial cow/calf operation and raise row crops and hay. Like their mother, both Jack and West have homes on the farm and maintain successful off-the-farm careers.

Jack Garland is a general road master for CSX Transportation, working for the railroad company for nearly 20 years. The 39-year-old also serves as chairman of Benton Farmers Cooperative’s board of directors. Jack and his wife, Megan, have three children: Ella Grace, 8, Abigail, 5, and Jackson, 3. Younger brother West Williams, 31, owns and operates a tire business in Paris.

“Whether it’s working cattle or raising row crops, I take great joy in watching my boys work together and having my grandbabies right there with us,” says Linda. “Farming is something that we can enjoy doing together, and that means the world to me.”

 
 
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