Special Profile Series: Chuck Redden
AR: Tell us about home, where you grew up.
Redden: I am from a small town in Tennessee called Dickson, which is about 35 miles west of Nashville. It’s small today, and when I grew up it was even smaller. I believe the entire county only had 20,000 people in it. The area was very agriculturally-oriented when I was growing up, but of course, today it is seen as a Nashville suburb.
Dickson was not only a great place for me to grow up, but both my parents grew up there as well. We lived “in town” until I was in high school but then moved to my father’s family farm. Dad loved farming, but a small farm just didn’t provide the necessary income for the family. He was able to get the best of both worlds by becoming a life insurance salesman with Met Life (Metropolitan Life), which allowed him to have flexible hours so that he could afford to be a farmer!
AR: So farming was his passion?
Redden: Absolutely. He didn’t play golf or do any other leisure activities. We had a beef cattle farm — and still do have it — and it was fun. It was a neat place to grow up … where you could enjoy the outside to hunt and fish and work on the farm.
AR: Farming is pretty time-demanding; when something has to be done it cannot be put off. Was that true on your beef cattle farm?
Redden: For the most part, yes. My grandfather lived on our farm until he was in his mid-90s, but the heavy lifting was done by my father, brother and me. I remember that in the winter we would have to go to the farm and make sure the cows had food and water. Often we would have to cut holes in the frozen ponds to get water.
People today talk a lot about global warming. As a child, I remember that almost every winter we would have to cut holes in the ponds because they would have ice four to six inches thick. That was something you routinely did throughout the winter. Dad and I were talking about it recently, and he said it has been years since he has had to cut any ice. I cannot tell you what is causing it, but I can tell you that it is warmer than it used to be in Dickson, Tennessee.
AR: Farming was a central part of your family’s everyday life.
Redden: It was. Dad was involved in 4-H (an agricultural-oriented youth organization) when he was growing up and my brother, sister and I were as well. We did some 4-H projects together … things like raising a calf for showing at the county fair. I did other things in 4-H, including participating in public speaking programs at the state and national levels. In Tennessee, as you might expect, 4-H is a big organization with a lot of statewide recognition. I was fortunate to meet a lot of people throughout the state and nation.
AR: Did your family raise food for the cattle?
Redden: Just hay; everything else was purchased. But every summer we would have to cut hay. (laughter) As the tallest person, I was always on the wagon having to stack those square bales!
AR: Do you have any siblings? Or did you have to do all the work?