Brothers Jimmy and Andy Gray farm with their parents at their family farm in North Carolina. They milk 1,100 cows and farm 2,100 acres of land.
Jimmy and Andy are thrilled children, the farm’s third generation, are also fully engaged on the farm. They all show animals and are actively involved in their county fair, where they have earned championship honors.
“Farming is a busy job—especially dairy farming, but it is extremely rewarding,” said Andy. You watch animals grow, watch crops grow, and watch your children grow. We’re here every day of the year trying to produce healthy, wholesome food that Americans can consume and it’s what I’ve always done.”
Jimmy serves as a member of the local Soil and Water Conservation District, as his father did for decades before. As a farm family, they know they have a responsibility to their neighbors through their land and the environment. “We’re committed to soil and water conservation here at the farm,” said Jimmy.
Their sustainability efforts continue in their no-till farming method, which reduces erosion and improves soil health. They have also fenced seven different streams that flow through their pastures to make a positive impact on the environment.
“Our streams are cleaner for it. Vegetation can grow and protect the stream banks from washing away during heavy rain events. And when we exclude cattle from streams and provide water tanks for drinking, our young cattle are healthier,” Jimmy said.
Five years ago, the family built a new dairy facility. The new barns are “conservation and efficiency by design,” Jimmy said. They use dozens of water and soil conservation practices such as recycling sand for bedding, which can be used nearly 100 times.
Throughout the year, the family hosts several events on the farm to engage their local community and educate their neighbors about issues from agriculture education to hunter safety and water conservation.
One such event, an annual youth activity day, has a wildlife conservation message mixed in with a lot of fun. They set up ten different supervised stations where children can catch fish, shoot a slingshot, take a canoe ride on the pond, and try their hand at archery, skeet, and pellet rifle marksmanship.
Their commitment to sustainability recently gained national attention as the farm was awarded Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability, the first award of its kind for a dairy in North Carolina.
“Farmers are the caretakers,” said Jimmy. “We need to set a good example in our communities, and proactively tell our story to our fellow neighbors. It’s just the right thing to do.”