A Letter To My Great Grandfather

Updated on January 31, 2019
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

My Great Grandfather, John Archibald Ellison (top) and my Great Grandmother below, Mary Katherine Ellison.
My Great Grandfather, John Archibald Ellison (top) and my Great Grandmother below, Mary Katherine Ellison. | Source

Dear Great Grandfather Ellison

A letter to my Great Grandfather, John Archibald Ellison. The things I would say if I would have gotten to meet him, and the things I want him to know.

Dear Great Grandfather Ellison,

I'm writing this letter to you because I want to thank you so much for fighting to preserve what is left of our farm. I cannot imagine going through the fight you did when the county took our property by the right of eminent domain. I dream about what the farm used to be like before the county took most of it to build the school complex. It must have been amazing, I wish I could have seen it. It doesn't seem like there are many pictures of the original farm.

Even though what we are left with is a fraction of the farm you worked. I want you to know that even though it is smaller than I'd like it to be, I love this place. It means the world to me.


To most, it probably doesn't make a lot of sense. Our farm is small, besides the green barn, many of the original buildings that are still here are crumbling and falling down.

I'm sure you were disappointed when we transitioned the farm to horses in 2000 since they are so hard on the ground you and my parents worked so hard to grow in.

It was definitely a big change, but necessary for us to keep the farm. As you know we were having trouble managing without the help of our aging family members. Growing produce had become something that we were not able to sustain anymore. I love horses and it was a natural shift for us to use the property for horses.

I'm sure that you are not happy with the way the farm looks now. With all the mud and erosion the horses and fences have caused. I want to apologize for if you think that I don't appreciate what you left for us and if you are disappointed in the condition of the property.


We are doing our very best to make enough money to keep the farm in the family. All kinds of things that you probably can't even imagine people would pay money for. Horseback riding lessons, pony rides, petting zoo parties. Times have changed and we have had to change with them in order to be able to keep the farm in the family.

I'm sure you can see that your tractor shed is on its last legs. The old stable is gone too. The corn crib we did some preservation to this year and we hope to keep it standing for years to come.

The coondog house has been used for all different types of animals, it is still there, and we plan on working on it to preserve it for the future. I also wanted to let you know that I inherited your love of hunting hounds.

I know you were not happy when I moved here and had dogs living in the house. You made that very clear when the dishes were spilled over all those times. I'm glad that you have learned to accept it.

Original family farmhouse, where I live now.
Original family farmhouse, where I live now. | Source

I hope you know how much I love this house. Though it needs a lot of work, this house is my home. I feel better in this house than I do anywhere else in the world. I know that is because in this house I'm as close to you, my grandparents and great aunts and uncle's as I can possibly be. I promise that I'm going to work hard to preserve and improve this house. Living in the house that you built means more to me than I can put into words.

I'm so fortunate that we still have what we do of the family farm. It has evolved over the years with the changing times, but I want you to know that to me, no matter what we call it, or what we do here. First and foremost this is our family farm and I'm going to hold onto it no matter what it takes.

Growing up on a produce farm, I learned to appreciate the life of a farmer, and how hard they work. I learned to appreciate where my food comes from. and to have a great love and appreciation for agriculture.


It is sad how Northern Anne Arundel County has gotten so disconnected from everything agricultural. I hope that by preserving our small farm and teaching people about how we had to evolve over the years to keep the farm viable, that I will instill in others at least some appreciation for the farmer and the importance of preserving farmlands for agriculture.

I'm sure you can see us working on the farm, and I hope that you can see that we are committed to it and are going to do whatever it takes to keep the farm in the family.

I hope that you see that just like you fought to keep what is left of our farm, we are fighting to keep it in the family. This house on the hill, the old buildings, the new buildings, the horses, it is all just the story of our farm family.


Though we may not be growing vegetables anymore, we are still living as you would want us to. We are still a farming family and living out those values you taught my Grandmom and Mom who then passed it on to me.

There is a country song about "Daddy won't sell the farm". I feel like this song was written for me. Despite the fact that we are surrounded by suburban sprawl, I'm not going to allow our family to be uprooted from this farm.

As you didn't give up on keeping our farm in the family for us. I'm not going to give up on living the farm lifestyle and emulating the values of a farming family.

Montgomery Gentry's " Daddy Won't Sell The Farm"

So thank you for fighting to keep this farm for me. I would not be the person I'm today and on the path, I'm on, if it hadn't been for your love of this property and willingness to fight to keep it for us.

I'm very fortunate to have been born into a farming family, and I'm never going to forget that or take it for granted. I hope that you are watching and can see the resilience and dedication that we all have for this piece of property you saved for us. Thank you so very much.

Your Great Grand Daughter,

Ellison Hartley

How Important Do You Think Preserving Agriculture Is?

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Questions & Answers


    Submit a Comment
    • Ellison Hartley profile imageAUTHOR

      Ellison Hartley 

      5 months ago from Maryland, USA

      It is so nice to hear from someone who can relate! Around here not many people see the importance of preserving farmland

    • profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      5 months ago

      Hi Ellison, I also come from a farming background and I know how difficult it was for my grandparents especially when times were hard. Your article was inspirational, touching and heartwarming, and thank you for sharing.


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