WHITTLE: Food, prayer recipe for good life

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Prayer and fresh vegetables are stated recipes for a tasteful life in this man’s kitchen.

“All the veggies you see here this morning – including the turnip greens – are fresh,” said Billy Raynor, owner of Farmers Family Restaurant, while conducting a tour of his kitchen.

“When we can, we buy our produce and food products from locally owned businesses, such as Taylor Farms located in Smyrna,” Raynor said, as he stirred a pot of smoking hot corn on the cob. “I credit the freshness of our vegetables with helping bring people to our tables.”

When Billy Raynor and his wife, Shirley, first opened Farmers Family Restaurant in February 2012, they unlocked their doors to the public at 10:30 a.m. Because of public demand, the eatery has expanded to serving breakfast too.

“Due to customer requests, the Raynors expanded their hours to include their now famous breakfast buffet,” diner Dwight Faircloth said. “The varieties of food off their breakfast, noon and dinner buffets are remarkable.”

Faircloth’s remarks came between bites from his plate of scrambled eggs, country ham and fresh-baked biscuits.

“These big 'ole biscuits are so light and fresh, they’re liable to fly off your plate,” Faircloth said, a local real estate agent.

Faircloth had an interesting role in how Farmers Family Restaurant came to locate in Murfreesboro.

“Dwight had dined at our eatery in Columbia, and having forgotten to leave the waitress a gratuity, he drove all way back to Maury County. Upon his return, we officially met and that’s when he came up with a suggestion that Shirley and I open a restaurant in Murfreesboro,” Raynor said. “I recall thinking since this man came all the way back to Columbia to leave a tip for our waitress, Shirley and I prayed about paying attention to his suggestion, and you see the results here today by the number of patrons with their feet under our tables."

As he spoke, his eatery was burgeoning with early morning breakfast diners.

“I come just for Miss Shirley’s breakfast jambalaya,” said Smyrna resident Randolph Salyers, who heads the Codes Department for the City of La Vergne. “My dad (Ken Salyers) loves the homemade biscuits and thickening gravy.”

“The breakfast jambalaya was Shirley’s idea,” Raynor noted. “People are sometimes surprised to find jambalaya on the breakfast buffet, but it’s a proven popular item.”

Murfreesboro residents Clyde Franklin, Ronnie Wells and Kalongi Barnett faithfully show up each Thursday morning to share faith, food and fellowship.

“I had oat mill, fruit and toast,” said Franklin, a local Church of Christ minister.

“I had a veggie omelet and fruit,” added Wells, who is also a minister.

“I had grits and bacon and some tasty eggs,” Barnett said. “Plus, we like being served by waiter Thomas Walters, who has a nice smile and personality.”

“I’ve worked here ever since the restaurant opened,” Walters explained. “I enjoy the fellowship and serving the nice people.”

Baptist church-going Faircloth and Billy Raynor also noted they are “men of faith.”

“Precisely at 5 p.m., just as the evening dinner crowd is arriving, Billy steps out into the dining room, and offers a prayer of thankfulness, not only for his food-serving staff, but for his customers and their well-being,” Faircloth added.

“We’re very thankful to have a thriving business here in Murfreesboro,” Raynor said. “Being thankful is one of the motivations for us to bring in gospel singing groups, such as The Isaacs to come and sing praises to our Lord and Savior right here in the restaurant. Tickets sold out for that recent performance the same day we announced The Isaacs were coming.”

Faircloth frequently books gospel music groups throughout Middle Tennessee.

“My love for gospel music, goes back to my boyhood, when first knowing and eventually working with the late great and legendary J.D. Sumner, the greatest bass singer of all time,” Faircloth said. “The shared love of gospel music with Shirley and Billy helped launch our friendship and is part of our continued business relationship to the present.”

Legendary regional bluegrass musicians also are regularly invited to make music in the restaurant.

“Rutherford County’s own legend Mickey Harris performs here when he’s not travelling in his own global music career,” Faircloth said. “Mandolin man, the legendary Billy Yearwood, also has performed on music nights.”

The music and bread of life are featured on the menu at Murfreesboro’s Farmers Family Restaurant located next door to Marti & Liz’s Shoe Store in the shopping area behind the DoubleTree Hotel.


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