4th Generation Family-Owned Business
Our story began in 1920, when Jesse Rogers purchased a tract of land tucked within the Thomas Valley along the Tuckaseegee River in in Jackson County North Carolina.
Now in 2021, that land and the family's farm is owned by the great grandson of Jesse Rogers, William Shelton.
A lot happened between 1920 and the modern farming operation of today. William is the fourth generation to proudly farm this family soil, and today Shelton Farms is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in western North Carolina.
William and his crew take a great deal of pride in honoring and preserving the past while keeping an eye on the current and future food needs of the area.
Shelton Farms is proud to be a long-time supplier of tomatoes and other produce to the Ingles Grocery Stores chain. For two years Shelton Farms supplied tomatoes to the popular Blue Apron brand.
In addition to tomatoes, Shelton Farms also grows strawberries, hydroponic lettuce, cucumbers, squash, and other crops.
Future plans for the farm include adding more produce lines for wholesale customers, opening an on-site farmers market, historical tours, festivals and other agritourism projects.
When Jesse Rogers started the farm in 1920, his initial focus was mostly subsistence and livestock farming. Jesse was blessed with four daughters, and one took great interest in the farm. Lucy Rogers grew up working the farm and after marrying, brought her new husband Crawford Shelton into the family. Jesse eventually relied on Crawford to help him expand and grow the farm. Crawford took over the day-to-day operation in 1932 and expanded their crops to include corn, alfalfa and eventually tobacco.
Crawford and Lucy had an entrepreneurial drive and diversified their farming operations when they opened Green Acres Farm, the first tourist destination on US Highway 441. Lucy and Crawford might have been the original “farm to table” visionaries. Family legend says that Lucy supervised the harvest and preparation of the garden meal and then took a “lie down” while the guests cleaned everything up! It was a seemingly win-win for everyone involved.
After the Nineteenth Amendment became law in 1920, Lucy became one of the first women in the Qualla Community to vote,
Better know as Granny to her grandchildren, Lucy cooked meals, helped deliver babies, and ran Green Acres Farm and Tourist Cabin Rentals.
Reportedly, the legendary author John Steinbeck was one of the family's guests, at the rental cabins. As was renowned artist, Virginia Keep Clark, who painted portraits of Crawford and Lucy Shelton and their farm that the Shelton clan still own today.
Lucy and Crawford Shelton had two sons, Rogers and Harry, both of whom served in World War II.
In a letter to his family written during the war, Rogers spoke of family and the importance of everyone working together to sustain and help one another. He added that he could not wait to get home to be a part of the working family again. The vision became reality after the war when both sons and their parents resumed working together.
After returning home, Rogers became more active in farming. Having seen the horrors of the war, he took solace in working with the earth to watch the harvest grow. He also obtained a franchise for Dairy Queen along the way. Rogers Shelton owned and operated a Dairy Queen in downtown Cherokee as well as a store in Brevard, N.C. for many years. However, his first love was for farming. Shelton’s love of farming extended past the boundaries of his own land as he also taught classes in agriculture at the Cherokee Boys Club.
Rogers Shelton later married Rita Cabe Shelton. With Rita’s blessing, he sold his other businesses and focused on farming. Along the way, Rita and Rogers had two children, a daughter, Drucilla, and a son, William.
Like his father, William always saw opportunity and potential for the farm. After graduating with a BS Degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, William took over day-to-day operation of the farm in 1984.
William saw the writing on the wall for the local tobacco industry early on. During his first years of farming he continued to grow tobacco but soon began shifting his focus to tomatoes and strawberries. In the mid-eighties Shelton introduced hydroponic lettuce to the region with the installation of hydroponic greenhouses. He eventually eliminated tobacco entirely from his crop rotation as other vegetables were added. Shelton recalls that it was an easy decision to make. “I just felt better about producing and promoting healthy and flavorful products that are good for us, versus toxic tobacco products that can kill us. It was the right thing to do.”
William is quick to point out that farming hasn’t always been easy, but it has always provided him a deep sense of satisfaction and affirmation of his roots. Furthermore, he adds, “I want visitors to our farm –as well as our wholesale customers – to understand why we love this place and why it is important to us. My hope is that they will leave not only with delicious, fresh produce, but also with some good memories that they will never forget. We have done our job if we can do that –and what better way to honor my family, my mom and dad and those that came before us?”
As for Rogers Shelton, he watched with pride as William grew the farm. He was always quick to add his advice, while encouraging his son’s ideas. Rogers and Rita Shelton spent many happy hours under the iconic shed whiling away the hours swapping stories with friends and neighbors, both new and old, selling produce and providing a link to the past—while taking pride that their beloved farm was in good hands with their son.
They both passed in 2018. Rita Shelton was 94 and Rogers Shelton was 98. The shed fell down that year marking the passing of the generational guard that had watched over the farm for almost 90 years.
Regardless of future plans, as always, Shelton Family Farm remains firmly committed to delivering fresh and flavorful produce to their customers in a timely manner, and remaining first and foremost stewards of the land they have loved and farmed for four generations while honoring their ancestors in the process.
But above all…the farm and the land endure.
Rogers and William Shelton
“I want visitors to our farm to understand why we love this place and why it is important to us. And I want them to leave not only with delicious fresh produce, but I want them to leave with some good memories that they will never forget. I hope our wholesale customers can get a sense of that too. We have done our job if we can do that—and I think that is the best way to honor my dad and others in my family who came before us. – William Shelton