Mary Roller has been doing a lot of farming since she graduated from Warren County High School in the class of 2012. She and her father, Danny, are to be found out in the fields digging trees, cutting and bailing hay, operating the skid-steer loader, and running down the occasional escaped cow with help from friend and neighbor James Dillard.
She looks back fondly on her high school years, though, during which she starred on the basketball team for coaches Ann Eades and Erick Baird. Her favorite high school teachers were Russell Watson, the FFA sponsor, and Marla Cantrell, her mathematics teacher.
She also has fond memories of attending school at Dibrell Elementary, where she took a liking to mathematics. “That was my favorite subject,” she says, owing to the teacher of that class her 7-8 grade years, DeDe Holmes. Her time at Dibrell was highlighted by experiences with her friends and classmates, folks like Emily Crawford, Lauren Wilkinson, and Garrison Holmes, at whose home she sustained an injury on the Slip ‘N Slide. “I had a broken nose, and I didn’t know it was broken,” she says of one unfortunate turn on the wet plastic sheet.
Following her years of education in Warren County, Mary studied agribusiness management at Tennessee Tech. Her college years were punctuated by experiences in the field. One summer she and some classmates grew 1,600 tomato plants at the college’s Oakley Farm greenhouse research complex, and sold the resulting tomatoes at the Chattanooga Farmers Market.
Other endeavors included a five-day trip to Amsterdam to view the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens and study tomato production, and a 15-day trip to the Czech Republic to study tomato production in that country.
While in the Czech Republic, Mary and her classmates took an all-night train ride to Poland, where they toured extermination camps Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Following her graduation from Tennessee Tech in 2016, Mary returned home to help run the family farm. She currently lives in Midway with her older sister Sarah, who is finishing up a degree in nursing from Cumberland University. They get along very well, as do their respective dogs: Mary’s German shepherd Macy and Sarah’s yellow Labrador retriever Clyde.
Mary says Sarah is an excellent cook, whipping up delicious dishes like broccoli casserole. “Anything she cooks is usually good,” Mary says. Mary knows her way around the kitchen herself, and she often prepares spaghetti, lasagna, and pasta. In her recipes she tries to mix in fresh vegetables from her garden, where she grows zucchini, green beans, squash, okra, and tomatoes.
When not working in the fields or delivering trees to Atlanta, Dallas, Knoxville, Chattanooga, or Birmingham, Mary likes being out on the water. “I like the water, just swimming or cooling off in general in the summertime.”
Her love of the water led to a torn ACL and concussion in 2019, when the Sea-Doo she was driving at swift speed threw her off. During her weeks of rehabilitation, she watched many episodes of her favorite TV shows “Grace and Frankie” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
When not in the water, Mary likes to hike, listen to country music from the likes of Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, and Cody Johnson, collect cowboy boots (“That’s one of my obsessions”), attend New Union Baptist Church in Belk, and eat her favorite food, cheeseburgers.
Mary says that Five Guys in Cookeville has a good cheeseburger and that Renea’s Kitchen in Midway has a good one as well. According to her, though, the best one of all can be found at the Midway ballpark. “Nothing’s better than a Midway cheeseburger,” she says.
Out in the fields each day, Mary tries to drink lots of water. Two summers back she ended up in the hospital emergency room twice on account of dehydration. “I learned to drink a lot of water last summer, because I wasn’t going to do that again,” she says.
She begins each day with a visit down the road to the home of her parents, Paula and Danny. Her father fixes breakfast every morning, usually biscuits, scrambled eggs, and country ham or sausage or bacon. “You gotta eat breakfast so you have energy,” Mary says.