Sharing a story of determination, resilience, and remarkable growth
In the years immediately following the Civil War, former slave George Bridgeforth, Sr. began buying land in North Alabama to establish a farm. He and his wife, Jennie, began growing their family.
By 1900 the Bridgeforth family had grown to include nine children. Their first son, George Ruffin Bridgeforth, became the first Black student to attend Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1897 after first attending Talladega College. Their second son, Isaac “Ike” Bridgeforth, attended Tuskegee Institute during this time.
In 1902, George Ruffin Bridgeforth went to work at the Tuskegee Institute with Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.
By 1910, George Ruffin Bridgeforth had become the largest Black landowner in Limestone County. That year, he founded the Southern Small Farm Land Company, which established the North Alabama farming community known as Beulahland.
Isaac Bridgeforth had returned home from Tuskegee to farm on land adjacent to his father’s holdings while also venturing into the timber industry in the mid-1920s. His son, Darden Bridgeforth, began farming with him at an early age.
Isaac Bridgeforth bought the farm’s first tractor, according to his son, Darden.
1945 – 1950s
Darden Bridgeforth had branched into timber previously but fully focused his efforts on farming starting around 1945. It was also around this time when he and his wife, Betty, began to grow the family to 13 children — eight boys and five girls.
This was a period of significant growth for the farm and the family. By 1988, Darden and his sons had become the largest cotton producers in the state, raising more than 4,000 acres of it along with soybeans and corn. All of the Bridgeforth men were involved at the farm, and all had other degrees or another trade.
Darden Bridgeforth retired in 1990, leaving farm leadership duties in the capable hands of his sons until he passed away six years later. During this time, Lamont Bridgeforth returned to work with his father, Greg, as a partner in the farm, representing the first of the fifth generation at the farm.
In 2012, two more fifth-generation Bridgeforth men, Carlton and Kyle Bridgeforth, sons of Bill, returned to work at the farm. Carlton left behind a career on Wall Street, and Kyle made a move from working in Washington D.C. In 2015, Carlton became the first Black person to serve on a USDA checkoff committee. Presently, these five partners are joined by other family members in various aspects of farm operations.