From the Tractor Seat with Joe Layton
As I do tours of our winery and talk about, our farm guests often ask about our family farm and how long we have farmed the farm, which seems like an easy question, but is actually a little more complicated. The Layton’s have farmed on the lower eastern shore of Maryland since sometime in the sixteen hundreds, at times very successfully and at other time struggling to get by. From the early 1900’s until after WWll they were sharecroppers in the Salem – Vienna area. My father who was born in 1918 and died in 2010 lived on 5 different sharecropped farms before he left home at age 18. Sharecropping was a common practice at the time for families who did not own land and could not afford to buy any. The sharecropping family lived on the farm and farmed the land just as they owned it and in return shared all of the production with the landlord. These agreements usually were handshake deals for one year which started on Jan 1 of each year. One of my father’s first memories was moving on a cold New Years day in an open wagon with a stove with the fire still in it down the dirt road about a mile to their new home. This would be their home at least for a year. My father, his mother and father, 2 brothers and 3 sisters would make 4 more New Year’s Day moves before he left home. My grandfather was able to buy the last sharecropped farm, which became the Layton Home farm where the last 4 generations grew up and is now home to our winery and vineyard. He was only able to purchase the farm because it was a sharecropper farm, considered poorer, less productive and less valuable.