The home that resides on the farm is said to have been built in 1776, according to the deed, but Mike Joyce and his son (also Mike Joyce) have questioned whether that is accurate.
“My grandfather bought the property in the early 1900s, and we’ve questioned whether the deed is correct,” Joyce’s son said. “We’ve done some restructuring work and found logs behind the main structure, which would suggest the date is correct.”
During the time Mike was growing up, his farm had 100-150 acres of land, of which his family of 16 children, parents and 10 – 12 share croppers worked.
Mike’s wife, Mary, explained that Mike’s father (Elbert Lee Joyce) and his first wife had seven children, but after she passed away from rheumatic fever, he remarried.
“He remarried and he and his second wife (Claudia Glidewell Joyce) had eight children and adopted one, so they had a total of 16 children,” she said, noting that Mike was the youngest of the 16 children.
“Daddy had his own army,” Joyce’s son joked.
Mike explained that the farm was a true working farm, where they grew and raised almost everything they needed.
“This was a real working farm. We raised and grew everything we needed right here,” he said. “The only thing we needed to go to the store for was sugar, coffee and salt. We had to take our grain to the mill to grind it. I remember my father used to go to Winston and peddle any extra produce we had.”
Mike noted how much things have changed over the years.
“When 421 came in, it came through the farm. I can remember when Mom would hook up the mules and go to work,” he said. “I (also) remember you could hunt in the fields and walk several miles into Kernersville without seeing anyone. We would walk into town and all that there was on this side of town was Peddycord Equipment and Ivey Hedgecock Auto Repair.”
He noted that traffic has picked up tremendously since he was a boy.
“For entertainment, I remember sitting on our front porch and watching the cars go by,” he said, as he noted that all the surrounding roads were dirt at the time. “Back then, about 10 cars would go by in an hour, and now about 10 or more cars go by every minute.”
Joyce’s son explained that since there were so many children in his dad’s family, his grandfather decided to deed the farm to Mike.
“It was too much to try to divide it up between the 16 children, so the land was sold off and Daddy just divided the money, since they couldn’t decide what to do with the land,” he said, noting that much of the land was turned into housing developments. “As the kids grew up, Grandpa would help all the kids get started by giving them land and help them build a house.”
Mike noted that his father passed away in 1966, and he took care of his mom until she passed away in 1976.
“My dad was 16 (years-old) when his dad died,” Mike’s son said.
Once Mike started his own family and his son came along, the farm was no longer a fully self-sustaining farm. Instead, they were growing mostly tobacco and a little bit of hay.
“We had barns here that we would cure the tobacco in,” said Mike’s son. “Daddy would work through the winter and get the summer off.”
By the time Mike’s son was 15-years-old the regulations on tobacco had changed so much, that the Joyce family was forced to find another means of living and so they transitioned to horses.
“Things changed so much with government regulations that it became too difficult to raise tobacco anymore,” Mike’s son explained.
Mike said if his father had seen how they were raising tobacco at the time, he would have been sick.
“When we started raising tobacco, we would cure it on a stick. Then we went to tying it on a stick, and then sewing it, and finally racking,” Mike said. “They were charging you for everything and making you do things a certain way and it didn’t always mean it was better for you.”
Mike’s son said the Joyce family always had horses to ride on around the farm, but around 1984, they decided to have a full service horse farm.
“We raised and sold horses; we boarded and bred them; we had a tack shop; and we gave lessons,” he said. “We had a full-service farm.”
At the age of 16, Mike’s son decided to start showing horses, after working for San UP Farm as a glorified stall cleaner.
“Kelly Sapp was the trainer,” he said. “That’s when I got my start in riding and breaking horses.”
During the first year he showed horses he was a Reserve State Champion.
After working with Sapp, he went to work for his uncle, Lawrence Joyce, for about a year and a half and was named the All Age Reining Champion and Youth Champion for the Blue Ridge Quarter Horse Association that year.
“I then went to the Quarter Horse Congress and was ninth in the world.”
The following year, he made a transition to working with Bob Mac training stables, where he stayed for another year.
“That year I went to the All American Quarter Horse Congress again and was a Futurity Finalist. I was 21-years-old and was a limited open rider,” he said. “When I came out of the pen I had people that wanted to know how much they could have for my horse. She ended up somewhere in Italy.”
After having so many accomplishments, Mike’s son decided to return to the family farm to help train horses.
“We probably had about 40-50 head of horses at the time,” he said.
In 1999, Mike’s son moved away from horses and decided to focus more on family life and later went into law enforcement. His sister has worked in law enforcement for 22 years.
Today, the Joyce Farm is a bit quieter and sees fewer horses, but Mike noted there’s always something to do.
“We board a few retired horses and I take in horses that need some rehabilitation,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Joyces spent an entire day putting up new fencing on the farm.
“There’s always something to do around the farm,” Mike said.