SWEET HISTORY: Todd gives cane mill to Brundidge Historical Society

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The mission of the Brundidge Historical Society is to preserve and promote the cultural and physical heritage of the rural South.

Since 1991, the BHS has been fulfilling its mission in a variety of ways, one of which is the Peanut Butter Festival, harvest and heritage celebration held annually on the last Saturday in October.

For 12 years or more, Joe Todd and his mule-drawn cane mill have been the centerpiece of the BHS’ harvest and heritage celebration.

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Todd’s family has been making syrup since 1835 and for six generations. The Todd family helped pioneer syrup making in the Tarentum community. Over the years and through the generations, the Todds perfected the art of syrup making. Their cane syrup was known and desired far and wide.

“And it all starts with the cane juice,” Joe Todd said.

Todd owns and operates Todd’s Farms in Headland. He grows his own cane, grinds his own juice and makes and bottles his own sugar cane syrup.

It was his love of and appreciation for the place he calls home that brought him to the Peanut Butter Festival more than decade ago. And, it’s that love and appreciation for “home” and the desire to preserve the old ways that inspired Todd to “turn loose” of his old Chattanooga Model 22 cane mill.

Faced with health concerns, Todd wanted to make sure the old mill would continue to be a focal point of the festival. He wanted the cane mill to stay in the “family” so to speak.

On Friday, the mill changed hands, from Todd to the Brundidge historical group.

“We were so pleased that Joe wanted the mill to stay with us,” said Lawrence Bowden, BHS president. “Joe works so hard and is such a beneficial influence on our community and has been over the years. Joe will be with us again this year to make sure we know how to set up and run the mill. It’s important to him that we carry on the tradition of cane grinding.”
Bowden said in today’s world, cane grinding is a novelty, especially when a mule is pulling the mill.

“We feel very honored and fortunate that Joe wanted to share something as personal as this mill with us,” Bowden said. “I don’t know of anyone who is more dedicated to the preservation of the old ways that Joe Todd.”

Todd’s Chattanooga Model 22 cane mill will continue to be the centerpiece of the Brundidge Peanut Butter Festival. Visitors to the harvest and heritage celebration will be able, to once again or for the first time, see how cane was “juiced” in the good ol’ days.

“The Chattanooga Model 22 was never sold in the states,” Todd said. “It was exported out of America from 1906 through 1918. I’m thinking this mill was dated around 1915. Back then, the cane mills all went to South America and the Caribbean.”

Todd said around 1930, a family moved back to the Headland area from Costa Rico where they had a coffee plantation. It’s possible that’s how the cane mill came to be in the area.