Despite being busier during “retirement” than most people, Cherokee County native Dewandee Neyman insists there are some things she’ll always make time for.
“I believe in the family table. My boys didn’t grow up on sandwiches or food from a drive-through window. We always had meals. My grandbabies eat breakfast and lunch at my table now, so I look for easy recipes that don’t keep me in the kitchen too long,” says Neyman.
She says she grew up watching her mother and grandmother cook, and she learned about cooking from many of the other ladies in her community.
“It’s closed now, but I remember spending summer days at the cannery in Sand Rock. People would bring whatever fresh food they had, along with their jars, lids and rings, and we all worked together at the cannery to put it up. Everybody traded and shared what they had, and while they waited for the pressure to rise or the jars to cool, all the women would talk about cooking. I learned a lot from those ladies, and it was fun,” she says.
Dewandee and her husband, Danny, live on the farm that once belonged to her grandparents.
“We bought the place when it went up for sale in 1978, and our two sons have since purchased the adjoining farmland that was once my great aunt’s,” she says.
People might expect that after spending 31 years in a second-grade classroom, Neyman would be enjoying a leisurely retirement, thinking about anything but children and school. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
“I retired because I wanted to stay home to take care of my two grandsons, but it broke my heart to stop teaching. I might never have retired if it hadn’t been for my grandbabies,” Neyman says.
And while she’s proud her grandsons enjoy spending their days on the farm, she says she can’t let go of her passion for education.
“I was elected to the Cherokee County Board of Education, and I’ll begin serving in November. And I plan to stay involved in Cherokee County Farm Field Days,” she says.
Neyman says a friend recommended she attend an Ag in the Classroom workshop in 2000, and it was that workshop that inspired her effort on Farm Field Days.
“In September, 1,500 students in kindergarten through third grade will leave their classrooms to learn first-hand about farming in their community. Many children in Cherokee County pass by cotton fields on the way to school but have never touched raw cotton. There’s such a thirst now for knowledge about our food and fiber and farm life. To see young children excitedly ask if the label in their shirt says 100 percent cotton or not is amazing,” Neyman says.
This month, Neyman offers up some of her favorite recipes that are also easy to prepare.