Former President Jimmy Carter’s decision to spend his remaining time at home and receive hospice care instead of treatment for metastatic skin cancer has triggered an outpouring of stories and reflections on his well-lived life.
Many of those stories revolve around his boyhood home and farm in the community of Archery, a few miles from the more well-known town of Plains where Carter and his wife Rosalynn have lived since their White House days.
Carter has said that many of the exemplary values and lessons that helped guide him through adulthood and politics were learned on the farm and in his boyhood home.
Jimmy Carter’s daddy, Earl Carter, moved his family to the three-bedroom home and farm in 1928, when Jimmy was four years old. The house was the Carters’ home until 1949 when Earl sold the house and the surrounding farmland. Jimmy had left home in 1941 to attend college.
In 1994, the National Park Service purchased the house and 17 acres from the then-owner to eventually make it part of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. A multiyear restoration was started to return the house and surrounding farm to their appearance before electricity was installed in 1938.
In November 2000, the house and surrounding farm opened to the public as the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm. Today, visitors can tour the old house and take self-guided tours around the farm to see its restored barns, work and storage sheds, chicken coop, water mill, and other structures that were part of a working farm in southwest Georgia during the 1930s.
Adding authenticity to the historic farm, park service workers and volunteers still maintain honeybees, goats, chickens, mules, and farm cats there. Seasonal crops also are still grown, including sugarcane, cotton, corn, tomatoes and, of course, peanuts.
One of the farm’s restored buildings is the old commissary, or store, opened by Earl Carter to sell supplies, groceries, and other items – including gasoline – to local folk. The old store still has a cash register from the 1930s sitting on its counter. Shelves are still stocked with the wares and goods that typical households of that period would have needed for everyday life. The old gas pump still stands outside.
In particular, one of the farm’s restored structures centers around Jimmy Carter’s stories of his growing up. It is the tenant cabin where African-American workers Jack and Rachel Clark lived on the farm. According to the National Park Service: “Young Jimmy spent time working on the farm beside Jack and Rachel. Their days began at 4:00 a.m., hoeing weeds, stacking peanuts, picking cotton, and caring for the Carter’s farm animals. Although farm life was hard work, Jimmy and Rachel would find time to go fishing in the nearby creek. On the walk to the creek, Rachel would tell Jimmy stories about life’s lessons and would share with him her words of wisdom. These words stayed with him all of his life.”