Three weeks ago, Tom Sanders was diagnosed with leukemia. He passed away suddenly last weekend and Wednesday, he was laid to rest amid the cotton fields of his farm in Jenkins County.
Sanders, who was born in Cordele and lived in Statesboro for the past 30 years, purchased the 620-acre Broken Silo Farm in 1997 in the community of Perkins, just north of Magnolia Springs State Park off Highway 25.
“(The farm) keeps you wide open seven days a week, daylight to dark,” said farmer Jim Rogers, the grandson of Sanders. “It’s pretty much a one-man operation now. It was me and my granddaddy.”
And this time of year, peanuts are ready to be harvested. But for the first time, Rogers’ grandfather wasn’t there to help him.
In fact, while Sanders was in the ICU unit at Candler Memorial Hospital in Savannah, he shared with his wife Connie that he was worried how Rogers, 20, would manage the coming harvest of peanuts.
“I told him that Dan could handle it and would get the peanuts harvested,” Connie Sanders said. “But I had no idea so many of our neighbor farmers would come out and help. It was truly touching. I am so grateful.”
The day after “Mr. Tom,” as he was known, was buried, his fellow farmers were out in his fields.
“These people here left their field, picking their peanuts, to come pick his peanuts,” said local farmer and peanut buyer Horace Weathersby. “That’s just the way farmers are. They look out for each other.”
Rogers says the work they did Thursday would have taken him all week.
“They have no idea what it means to me what they’re doing,” he said.
Connie Sanders echoed her grandson: “It’s been a blur the past three weeks and the incredibly generous gesture of our friends in the farming community moved us all.”
Tom Sanders was 70 when he died and he left behind two daughters, six grandchildren and his wife.
“My nana, Connie Sanders…they would’ve been married in June of next year 50 years,” Rogers said.
And while Sanders also left behind his whole peanut crop, other Jenkins County farmers made sure not to leave all the work of pulling the crop out of the ground to Rogers.
Watch the video report from WJBF-TV here:
Anne Maxwell is a digital journalist with WJBF-TV in Augusta. The Herald used this story with permission. Herald editor Jim Healy contributed to this report.