Laura Dean Bennett
If you travel Rt. 28 between Dunmore and Green Bank this time of year, you will see beautiful straight rows of colorful mums growing next to David and Cindy McLaughlin’s home.
Those mums represent one of the several ways that their son, Jarrett McLaughlin, and his wife, Emily, are contributing to the continuing saga of the hard-working McLaughlin family.
Jarrett is the sixth generation of McLaughlins, who have lived and worked the McLaughlin farm in Dunmore.
He and Emily met at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, where both graduated with degrees in agriculture.
Emily graduated with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Studies.
Jarrett took his Bachelor degree in Animal Science.
FFA figured prominently in both Emily’s and Jarrett’s background.
Emily fondly remembers her time in FFA.
“I held state and regional offices, and I had a chance to meet so many people,” she said.
During his four years in FFA, Jarrett competed in livestock judging of market and replacement livestock – learning how to judge conformation of various breeds of livestock – sheep, pigs and cows.
“I liked the trips the best,” he recalled. “We got to go to Louisville, Kentucky, and to the Farm Show.”
Emily was raised in Paducah, Kentucky, and her family had a large restaurant business in Harned.
But they didn’t bat an eye when she started going with a young man from Pocahontas County, West Virginia – a young man who never had any doubts he’d be coming back home to take up farming with his family.
“My dad liked Jarrett right away,” Emily said.
“I guess because he was a cowboy,” she added with a smile.
Jarrett and Emily’s story began with a first date invitation, which, to many young ladies, might not have been appealing, but it apparently suited Emily.
As part of his ag work at Murray State, Jarrett’s job was feeding the team’s livestock and rough stock for the rodeo team.
Part of that job was to unload and bag up feed.
Jarrett grins slightly when tells the story.
“I asked her if she’d like to come over and help me unload feed,” he recalled. “And she said yes.
“I guess we bagged about 150 bags of feed that day.
“After that, she came every week and helped me.”
Emily’s first visit to Pocahontas County was in December one year, when she drove here for Christmas with Jarrett’s family.
Of course, the weather was bad and the roads were unfamiliar and dangerous, but there she was, driving by herself over Droop Mountain, no cell service and not even a working radio station.
“And she was mad,” Jarrett recalled.
“I felt like I was driving to the end of the world,” Emily said. “It was a lot – coming in for the first time like that.”
What was Jarrett thinking, letting her travel here by herself?
“I just needed to see if she was tough enough to make it,” he said, dryly.
We must surmise that Emily did prove to be tough enough, because they married in September 2013.
And here they are, happily working side by side every day, and raising their two children – who are two of the nine grandchildren which comprise the seventh generation of McLaughlins to live on the family farm.
There’s their five year old daughter, Brinley, and their son, Emmett, who’s four years old and usually seen under a cowboy hat.
The McLaughins got started in the mum raising business after doing a little in-person research about it.
In the fall of 2013, County Extension Agent Greg Hamons took Jarrett on two trips to check out a couple of operations where they were raising mums.
“We started our own business in 2014 with five hundred plants and have increased to a thousand,” Jarrett recalled.
“The mums used to be back behind Mom and Dad’s house, but in 2016 we had a flood back there, so we moved things up front to the patch along the road and increased the number to three thousand where we’ve been holding steady.”
The McLaughlin mums end up all over the county.
They sell mums both wholesale and retail.
Their wholesale clients include Southern States, Glades, McCoys, Dave’s Farm Supply in Renick, and they furnish the Green Bank School with mums for their annual fundraiser.
They are selling to the Hodge Podgery, the Mountain Shop in Green Bank, and they provide the mums that Mitchell Chevrolet uses for their beautiful fall decorations.
The McLaughlins also ship a large load – between 300 and 500 plants – to Emily’s brother-in-law, who’s a landscaper in Kentucky.
The family also sells some retail mums right there at the farm and at the Cass Harvest Festival.
Besides the mum business, the young couple helps out around the farm where the work never stops.
The family raises about 130 head of mama cows, 60 head of sheep, pigs and chickens.
And let’s not forget the six horses – which they use for their rodeo riding.
Both Emily and Jarrett continue competing in USTR (US Team Roping Championships) and the World Series Team Roping.
“We probably take six to seven long weekends a year, going to rodeo jackpots in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio,” Emily said.
And their children are following in their parents’ boot-steps – both are already competing on the West Virginia rodeo circuit.
Jarrett started another side business after graduating from the American School of Dentistry in Purcellville, Virginia, seven years ago. He now works as an equine dental technician.
During their travels to rodeos, they hit a lot of barns along the way, which is how Jarrett floats about 250 horse teeth each year.
The couple aren’t just partners on the farm and in the mum business, they are also partners in the real estate business.
Yep, in their spare time they both became realtors.
Jarrett got his real estate license four years before Emily. But when she left her position as an elementary school teacher in 2020, she went into real estate, too.
They like working as a team.
If Emily gets a client who’s looking for land, she hands them off to Jarrett, and if Jarrett has someone interested in a residence, he sends them to Emily.
The bulk of their clients are second homebuyers at Snowshoe.
And they’ve found that clients are interested in their family’s story.
“We didn’t think that people would be all that that interested in our bio on the website,” Emily said. “But it turns out, they are.
“In fact, we’ve gotten clients just because of the bio. They like that we’re farming and riding rodeo, and they want to know all about it.”
“When you ask people why they’re interested in property in Pocahontas County, it’s usually the same thing – because they just want to get away – leave the city and get away from the hustle and bustle,” Jarrett said.
“They want to be somewhere where they can let their kids run,” Emily added.
“We’ve found most of our buyers don’t want to rent out their places. They want to keep it for their family’s use.”
Just like the McLaughlin family has done for generations.
The McLaughlin farm has a venerable history.
It’s situated on land where the Thomas Creek School was located – a school which was built about 1860.
Emily and Jarrett live on the site of the original McLaughlin house which burned years ago when sparks coming out of the wood stove went up the flue and caught the wood shingles on fire.
“The boys slept in the hay mow and the girls slept in the old schoolhouse while the family rebuilt the house,” David McLaughlin remembered.
Not a lot has changed over the years on the farm.
“Other than the machinery and technology that we have now, the sixth generation of farming is pretty much the same here as it ever was,” McLaughlin stated.
The former county commissioner said he’s grateful to have raised his family here.
“We’ve been blessed with what we’ve got, and we’re glad to share it.
“If we have anything extra, we give it away.
“My five children all graduated from Pocahontas County schools and all have college degrees, and now we have nine grandchildren.
“This is a good place to raise a family.”
And, according to Jarrett and Emily, it’s also a good place to raise mums.