News Outstanding Young Farm Family—Forestry

Outstanding Young Farm Family—Forestry

Outstanding Young Farm Family—Forestry
October 4, 2006 |

It seems like only yesterday that the pine trees dotting 26 acres in rural Randolph County were small enough to fit into the hands of a 5-year-old. But Joshua Smith, not much bigger than a pine seedling himself back then, knows it’s been much longer ago than that.”My dad had cleared some timber and this whole hillside behind these chicken houses was just blank, nothing,” Joshua said. “So, my dad said, ‘We’re going to plant that in trees.’ I remember the trees sitting on the tailgate of our old red Ford pickup.”Dad made his own little planter out of an old plow, and us boys would come back behind him and put the trees in. He’d start the hole, and my younger brother, Jerry, and I would put the tree in the hole. Then, my older brother, Scott, would come behind us, and put the dirt back to it. It took us a couple of weeks, but we got it done. You know how it is with little kids.” More than two decades after his father taught him a lesson in forestry he’d never forget, Joshua Smith walks among those same pine trees with his wife, Denise, and year-old daughter, Jaycee, as the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family Forestry Division winner.The Smith operation, which covers 400 acres in all, is a diverse one. In addition to 150 acres in timber, there are about 140 acres in pasture and hayfields for about 90 head of cattle, and six layer houses.Joshua, who holds a commercial drivers license and is a certified diesel mechanic, keeps the timber business going full throttle, running six trailers and three 18-wheelers between himself and two other drivers.”Right now, we’re cutting in Daviston and we go to Prattville, and to Opelika. I haul normally one to two loads per night…my Prattville trips average four hours, round trip. And my Opelika roundtrips are 2 hours and 20 minutes, but I’m rolling.”So long are the days and so varied the duties between the timber, trucking, cattle and poultry operations that Joshua is reluctant to describe himself as simply a farmer. “You can’t really consider a farmer now just a person who just tills the land or grows his crops,” said Joshua. “He’s a mechanic, he’s a broker, he’s a maintenance man, he’s everything. He’s all of it rolled into one. You can’t just be the farmer anymore. … I don’t know what the definition of a farmer is anymore. I wish somebody would tell me.”A few years ago, he and Denise took a Caribbean cruise to get away from it all. But Joshua soon discovered relaxation doesn’t come easily when there are trees to cut, eggs to gather, and chickens and cows to feed.”Every minute I was gone that’s all I thought about,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s just craziness, or I just don’t want to get away from it.”And although Denise didn’t grow up on a farm, she too has become quite attached to it ever since the day Josh hired her sight unseen to pick up eggs in his poultry houses.”Mama worked at a restaurant at Woodland, and she said that Joshua had come in and was talking to somebody about needing somebody to work for him,” Denise recalled. “And Mama said, ‘Well, I’ve got somebody to work for you – my daughter.’ I was still in high school, and had gone to Auburn basketball camp for a whole week…But Joshua said, ‘Tell her to come in Monday,’ and that’s when I started.”Before long, the new employee became Mrs. Joshua Smith, a farm wife who holds down a night-shift job at Wellborn Cabinet but isn’t afraid to tackle any farm chore — literally. In addition to picking up eggs, changing tractor tires, greasing axles, driving tractors and pulling newborn calves, Denise also is an expert cattle driver.”I’d take a four-wheeler and ride up real fast next to the cows, and Denise would jump off and tackle the calves,” said Joshua with a laugh. “That’s the only way we could catch them. She can run some cows! She’s definitely an asset!”Likewise, he says he hopes that someday Jaycee will find her niche on the Smith farm. “Jaycee can either have the farming or the trucking,” said Joshua, “but I really hope she takes over the accounting part of the farm. I just can’t keep up with all of it.”
He also hopes to find another farmhand in the child they are expecting on Jan. 9. Awhile back, Joshua ran into Phil Padgett, his former agriculture teacher at Wadley High School. “He taught me a lot about trees, what to look for and what not to look for, what was good and what was bad,” Joshua said. “We really implemented a lot of these things into our little forestry project here … I’ve talked my dad into thinning the trees, and I’ve talked him into putting poultry litter between the rows. I really took all that from Mr. Phil. Ag teachers can have a great impact on any child’s life. It did me, anyhow.”But the greatest lesson may have been planted on a barren hillside 23 years ago. It’s a lesson that Joshua better understands today.”It was something we could do all together, and something that we could watch grow,” he says of their family planting project. “That was our main goal, and I see it now. I’m about to turn 28, and I understand it now a whole lot better than I did then.”

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