Jeremy and Beth Graham, dairy farmers at Thaxton, Miss., have been named state winners of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award, and Carla Taylor, Prentiss County dairy farmer, has been named the organization’s Farm Woman of the Year.
They were recognized for their farming innovations, leadership skills and involvement in Farm Bureau and their community at the organization’s annual meeting.
The Grahams, who will compete for the national title at the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting at San Diego, Calif., are continuing a dairy operation begun by Jeremy’s grandfather in the early 1930s. Jeremy started working at the dairy after high school and eventually bought it from his parents.
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The Grahams currently milk 171 cows and raise 162 heifers. They also grow soybeans and forage crops. Through the years, they have increased herd numbers and improved herd health. They have increased milk production through intensive grazing, made improvements in their milking parlor and purchased a vertical mixer that gives them the ability to mix a broader range of feed ingredients.
They were approved for a cost share program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service to purchase equipment to agitate and apply lagoon waste to their pastures, which has reduced their need to purchase commercial fertilizer. They have helped test new types of technology through the Dairy Herd Improvement Association.
Teaching youngers about dairying
Each year, Jeremy and Beth host 500 to 2,000 schoolchildren to show them firsthand how much work goes into the gallon of milk they get at the grocery store. Each child has an opportunity to feed a baby calf, milk a cow by hand, and visit the milking parlor to see how cows are milked. A nearby display shows products made from milk. The Grahams currently house 10 show cows for local 4-H kids who want to show a dairy cow but don’t live on a dairy.
Jeremy is on the Pontotoc County Farm Bureau board of directors, and Beth serves on the county Women’s Committee. The Grahams have served on the Young Farmers & Ranchers State Committee. Jeremy has served as a voting delegate to state convention and is on the MFBF Dairy Commodity Advisory Committee. They participate in county and state Farm Bureau activities and meetings.
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Jeremy serves on the Mid-South Dairy Herd Improvement Association board of directors, chairs the State Extension Advisory Committee, and is on the board of directors of the American Dairy Association. The Grahams are involved in many agricultural activities, 4-H, their church and community. They were selected regional YF&R Achievement Award winners in 2010. Beth is a radiology technologist. The Grahams have two daughters, Mary Hatley, 4, and Kendall, 1.
As state Achievement Award winners, the Grahams received a new Ford pickup truck, the use of John Deere and Kubota tractors, $500 from Watson Quality Ford, and $1,800 toward the purchase of technology from Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. Each regional winner in the competition received $500 from Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance and $500 from Southern Ag Credit.
Farm Woman of the Year
Carla Taylor, MFBF Farm Woman of the Year, a long-time Farm Bureau volunteer leader, says she appreciates the many ways the organization supports U.S. farmers, especially its efforts to take the farmer’s story to the general public.
“The Farm Families of Mississippi campaign is doing a fantastic job of helping consumers across the state gain an understanding of the importance of farming,” she says. “The Women’s, Ag in the Classroom, and Farm Woman of the Year programs are giving women farmers a voice and an avenue to teach schoolchildren and others about agriculture.”
Carla, who serves as women’s chair for Prentiss County Farm Bureau and has also served on the Young Farmers & Ranchers state committee and the MFBF board of directors, says she has taken advantage of every opportunity through her involvement with Farm Bureau to attend a class, a seminar, or a workshop to learn how to make the public more aware of agriculture and how important it is to their lives. Most notably, she was selected from among farm women across the nation to participate in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Women’s Communications Boot Camp in Washington, D.C.
“Most people today are so far removed from farming they aren’t aware of what farmers are doing to protect their food, their environment, their land and their water,” she says. “I try to let them know that they can’t go through a single day without the benefits of agriculture — whether it’s the food they eat, the clothes on their back, or even the roads they travel and the plastics used in their vehicles.”
Carla and her husband, Bradley, make a point of working with agricultural organizations like Farm Bureau despite their sometimes hectic schedule. The Taylors have three sons, Lee, 7, Carl, 5, and Holden, 4. Along with Bradley’s parents, they operate Taylor Jersey Farm near Booneville. The dairy has one full-time employee.
“I get up at 4:30 every morning to help my husband with the milking, and we milk again at 4:30 in the afternoon,” she says. “We milk our cows, feed them and the calves, then wash up and get our boys up and fed. I take them to school, then rush back home to finish any morning chores that need to be done. During the day, in addition to our usual chores, there is almost always other things that need our attention, whether heifers that need vaccinating, manure that needs spreading, or pastures that need planting.
“We volunteer with Farm Bureau, and we participate in school activities whenever possible,” Carla says. “We’re very busy at times, but it’s also fun. Being able to work side by side with my husband, who is also my friend and business partner, is great. Having our children grow up on a farm is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with them, teach them responsibilities, and give them experiences that a lot of children don’t have today.
“Our 7-year-old has daily chores, and he knows they have to be done. He also knows how to help keep the animals safe and happy, and the same holds true for our younger sons. It is so gratifying to see that our sons enjoy the dairy —we don’t push, but we think they might want to work here when they are grown.”
Taylor Jersey Farm milks 110 registered Jerseys and has 150 calves and heifers. They also farm pasture/hay and timber. Some of their land is in CRP and some is rented to a neighboring farmer for soybeans.
Carla says she absolutely sees herself in agriculture for the rest of her life. “I grew up on a dairy farm, and whether or not my future keeps me in the dairy industry, I know I can never get away from agriculture — it has sort of been bred into me.
A voice for agriculture
“It was also instilled in me by my parents to be a voice for agriculture. Farmers must take every opportunity to talk to consumers about agriculture, whether it’s an interview for a local paper, showing livestock at local fairs, or just talking to someone at the grocery store. We must also express our opinions and have an influence on what is happening in the farming community. We must let our voices be heard. I don’t wait to be asked —I speak right up.”
Carla was a regional YF&R Achievement Award winner in 2013. Bradley received the same award in 2003. The Taylors were recipients of the Young Jersey Breeder Award from the American Jersey Cattle Association in 2013. They market their milk through Dairy Farmers of America, where Bradley serves as a delegate as well as secretary for the Southeast Area Council
The MFBF Farm Woman of the Year Award was established to recognize, encourage and reward the achievements of women farmers. The recipient personifies the highest level of professional excellence in agriculture.