By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Birds of a feather
Sister farms honored as tops in Forsyth
Farm Families of Year 4 es
The Reeds and Millers' chicken houses hold up to 10,000 birds. - photo by Emily Saunders
This year's top Forsyth County Farm Families are related through more than just their way of life.

Neva Reed and Clarissa Miller are sisters who have lived their entire lives in the Chestatee community of northeastern Forsyth.

Together with their husbands, Tony Reed and Bobby Miller, they run two poultry businesses.

The Reeds raise eggs, which are collected weekly by Tyson and taken to other Tyson farmers -- including the Millers just down the road -- who hatch them and raise broilers.

The grown birds eventually end up in grocery stores and on dinner tables across the country.

Each year the Natural Resource Conservation Service office names a local family in the agriculture business as Forsyth's Farm Family of the Year.

The service is an organization that provides technical assistance to the farming community and urban landowners, encouraging wise and conservative uses of natural resources.

This year the group decided to honor both families since their properties adjoin each other and because technically they are part of one larger family.

"Clarissa and Neva are sisters and their family has been farming this farm for years," said Vivian Tanner, with the local service office.

"Daddy [Jack Milford] pretty much farmed his whole life," Miller said. "He got this property from his uncle. It's been in our family over 100 years."

Added Reed: "Daddy was 81 when he passed and he basically lived here his whole life."

Both families attended a banquet Thursday night in Cleveland where each received an award.

"I was surprised," said Reed of the honor.

Her sister said she was "shocked."

Both the Millers and Reeds have worked in the poultry farming business since 1993, each on about 20 acres of property they bought from their father.

Farming for them is truly a family affair with a long history.

"There's six kids in our family -- three boys and three girls -- and all but two are in the chicken business," Miller said.

"Daddy raised chickens and always had big gardens and cows and pigs."

Reed recalled "going to watch Granny milk the cows."

"That was always a big treat," she said.

Today, each family has two 400-foot chicken houses, each housing up to 10,000 birds at a time.

The Reeds said their hens, during peak reproductive periods, can lay as many as 14,000 eggs a day, which they sort and collect for Tyson.

Both families work seven days a week, usually eight or more hours a day, tending to their respective flocks.

While the farming life makes for many long and hard days, both families say they miss the old lifestyle of a time when Forsyth was truly a farming community.

"Pretty much all our neighbors used to have chickens or cattle, but now that's all changing," Bobby Miller said. "Now every thing's subdivisions. Farming's going downhill."

Added Neva Reed: "In some ways it would be nice to go back to that type of life. We tended to visit [our neighbors] more and be more involved with each others' lives. Now we're all so busy, we don't have time for each other."

The future of the two families' farms may also be in jeopardy, as both couples said none of their children seem to want to carry on the business.

"But that's fine. We prefer for them to make their own choices about what they want to do," Bobby Miller said.

But there might be hope for the families' chicken businesses in their grandchildren.

The Millers frequently babysit their granddaughters, Reese, 5, and Kaylee, 3.

"Papa babysits them and they love to go to the chicken house all the time," Clarissa Miller said.

Ten-year-old Justin Bottoms, who along with five-year-old brother Todd frequents his grandparents' farm, stopped by Wednesday to help them collect a few eggs.

"I like the chickens," said Bottoms. "But I haven't decided if I want to raise chickens or be a fossil digger."