Family: Married to John Keller, and they have two children. Son Sam Keller is married to Shanda Keller. Their daughter, Margaret Emrick, is married to Jeff Emrick. Keller also has five grandchildren - Elizabeth Keller, 13; Isaac Keller, 11; Luke Keller, 6; Reece Emrick, 5; and Connor Emrick, 2.
Occupation: Farmer. Keller and her husband own Kelmont Farms, Inc.
Susan Keller recently learned she was a gourmet cook.
“I didn’t know it until recently when I saw at a restaurant ‘blackened’ food,” she says. “I had been blackening mine for years. I called it burned.”
Keller is quick to laugh at herself. When one of her grandchildren asked her what the dinosaurs were like, she quipped, “I knew I needed to get a better wrinkle cream.”
Keller and her husband each grew up on farms. After she graduated from the University of Tennessee, she taught home economics at Walland High School from 1966 to 1971. She stayed home after her first child was born and started helping work the farm.
“Women’s liberation reached the farm women long before it was popular anywhere else out of necessity,” she says with a laugh.
Now she and her husband work land they own off Brown School Road as well as land below Heritage High School owned by UT. The UT land is now being converted to a dairy farm.
“Up until this year, we’ve been farming 1,300 acres. With the loss of the UT property, that cuts us back to about 900 acres.”
Keller says her son is the fifth generation to farm the land her father, grandfather and great-grandfather also worked. Keller says a farmer has to have faith. “You put money into fuel to work the soil, into fertilizer, into seed -- you put it all in the ground and have absolutely no control. It is a matter of faith.”
Keller says she and her husband enjoy traveling, being active with Farm Bureau and being involved at their church, New Providence Presbyterian. Keller also serves on the board of directors for Blount Memorial Hospital.
Here is Susan Keller:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“My dad was a farmer, and I love being a farmer. I am told I am also like my mother, Margaret. She died when I was only 3 so my memories are very few of her, but I have been told she drove a tractor when most women did not. She loved helping people and working in the church. I do these same things and love doing them.”
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“When God closes a door, he opens a window.” (From “The Sound of Music.”)
What are you guilty of?
“Getting involved in too many things and not doing a good job on some of them.”
What is your favorite material possession?
My John Deere tractors. There are few things better than driving a John Deere.”
What are you reading currently?
“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” by Barbara Kingsolver.”
What is one word others use to describe you and why?
“I am sure that word would change depending on who you talked with. I hope it would be dependable.”
If a movie was made about your life, who would play you and why?
“They don’t make boring movies.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“My overactive appetite.”
What is your passion?
“Preserving the farmland. The land feeds us, gives us beauty and roots. My feeling is that Blount County is beautiful. Let’s save it, not pave it.”
With whom, living or dead, would you like to have a long lunch?
“My grandfather, Mack Hitch. As a child, I remember his love of people and family. I would like to ask him questions and learn more about our family history.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“The early 1940s so I could get to know my mother. She was loved by so many, and I hope she is proud of me and the woman I have become.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“When John and I were planning our wedding, almost 44 years ago, I received my mother’s set of silver. I wanted very much to increase it, but learned the pattern had been discontinued. Many years later, John learned of a special place to get discontinued patterns and, with my daughter-in-law’s help, surprised me that Christmas with two place settings of the silver. Since he hates to shop, that was truly a labor of love.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“I have been so blessed to have two loving mothers. My mother who raised me from the age of 5, and Elva Keller, who always said, ‘You can’t succeed unless you try.’”
Other than parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life?
“My husband John. He has been the one I depend on for many years. We have shared the joys of our children and grandchildren. We have seen drought, flooding, loss of parents and illness, but he is always there with a cool head, support and love.”
Are you a cat or dog person?
“I love them both.”
What is the worst job you ever had?
“On the farm there are many less than desirable jobs. I think the two I dislike most are working cattle and hooking up equipment.”
What is your theme song that best describes you?
“You Have to Stand for Something or You’ll Fall for Anything”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“‘The Jetsons,’ with all the zooming around and all those household gadgets.”
What irritates you?
“People who do not honor commitments and take responsibility for their actions.”
What is one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“A real working farm. Our society is getting so far removed from the farm. So many people do not realize that everything we eat was at some time produced by a farmer. Children need to know that milk does not originate in a plastic jug.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Enjoy the now.”