Down on Penny’s Farm

TITLE: Down on Penny’s Farm
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (recording, Bently Boys)
KEYWORDS: hard times, work, farming, poverty, landlord

The Bently Boys—First recording of "Down on Penny's Farm
The Bently Boys

Bascom Lamar Lunsford, (1882-1973), the Southern folklorist, lawyer, and traditional singer [who lived just a bit further south on Turkey Creek, in Leicester, NC, than the admin of this website], says he learned it from a Claude Reeves of North Carolina, who claims he wrote it on personal experience around 1935. Claude Reeves’ claim is contradicted by the recording date of the Bently Boys’ version (original issue: Columbia 15565D), 1929. 

Other Titles & Variations:

  • Hard Times in the Country
  • Down on Robert’s Farm
  • Robert’s Farm
  • On Tanner’s Farm


  • Bently Boys, “Down on Penny’s Farm”—Amazon MP3
  • Natalie Merchant, “Down on Penny’s Farm”—Amazon MP3
  • Pete Seeger, “Penny’s Farm”—Amazon MP3


BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Muldaur, Kweskin, and Sebastian

Down on Penny’s Farm

Come here ladies and gentleman
Listen to my song
Play it to you right
But you may think it wrong
May make you mad
But I mean no harm
It’s just about the renters on Penny’s farm
It’s a hard time in the country
Down on Penny’s farm

Go into the fields
And you work all day
Deep into the night
But you get no pay
Promise you some meat
Or a little bucket of lard
It’s hard to make a living on Penny’s farm
It’s a hard time in the country
Down on Penny’s farm

Hear George Penny
He’ll be coming into town
With a wagon load of peaches
Not a one of them sound
Gotta get his money
Gotta get a check
Pay you for a bushel but you never get a peck
It’s a hard time in the country
Down on Penny’s farm

George Penny’s renters
They be coming into town
With their hands in their pockets
And their heads hanging down
Go to the merchant
And the merchant he’ll say,
“your mortgage it is due
And I’m looking for my pay?
It’s a hard time in the country
Down on Penny’s farm

Deep into his pocket
With a trembling hand,
“can’t pay you what I owe
But i’ll pay you what I can”
Down to the merchant
And the merchant makes a call
Put you on the chain gang
Don’t pay at all
It’s a hard time in the country
Down on Penny’s farm


  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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