Dawn East says she’s been very fortunate to have two loving families shape her life.
“My parents were wonderful people, but my husband’s parents have been just like a mother and dad to me, too. He has wonderful sisters, and we have a really nice, good daughter-in-law, too. We all do things together, like a pack,” she jokes.
And much of the time they all spend together is passed on East Farms in Cherokee County, a true family farm and the 2004 Farm of Distinction.
Dawn and her husband, John Bert, both work full time on their farm where they raise beef cattle and produce cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat.
“John Bert’s mother, Louise, had a grandfather who farmed, but Louise and (husband) John Bryan really brought East Farms into being, and at 84 and 85 years old, it’s amazing what the two of them still do here,” says Dawn.
Dawn and John Bert have two sons, both of whom have worked on the farm. “Ben and his wife Shelley have given us two beautiful grandchildren, Bryan (4) and Lydia (2), and nothing is as precious as when those two ask to stay with Nana and Papa. Our younger son Bart will graduate in the spring from Jacksonville State, and we’re very proud of them all,” Dawn says.
The daughter of a veterinarian, Dawn says she never envisioned becoming a farmer. “My dad, Dr. David Stone, came from a dairy farm family, and my three brothers helped, but Dad never wanted me to work on the farm. I helped him at his clinic sometimes, and he was actually the vet for East Farms,” says Dawn.
She adds that she didn’t have much experience in the kitchen before she married, but she says she was influenced by three wonderful cooks. “My mother was a good cook, and so is Louise. When my brothers and I were growing up, a lady named Annie Sue cooked for us, and I learned a lot from all three of them,” says Dawn.
One of the recipes Dawn shares this month is her mother-in-law’s Pecan Pie. “John’s sister, Cindy, and I went to college together, and that’s when I first had Louise’s Pecan Pie. I thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted,” remembers Dawn.
Dawn says Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese (a recipe from Annie Sue) and Asparagus Casserole are potluck stand-bys because they’re simple recipes that feed a crowd, and she adds that people always ask for the recipe when they taste Butter Pecan Brownies.
“Jambalaya is the kids’ favorite, and they all really enjoy seafood. The recipe for Gumbo originally called for chicken and sausage, but I added seafood because that’s what we like,” explains Dawn.
She says her recipes also reflect her fondness for traditional dishes. “So many recipes now call for things you can’t find at the grocery store. I don’t like recipes that you can’t even tell what the ingredients are,” Dawn adds.