News OYFF Forestry Winners: Staceys Make Most Of Family Farm

OYFF Forestry Winners: Staceys Make Most Of Family Farm

OYFF Forestry Winners: Staceys Make Most Of Family Farm
September 27, 2007 |

Chip Stacey is a firm believer in multi-purpose farming. “You know what a truck can do for you,” he says, “but what else can you do with it?”So it’s not too surprising that when the 26-year-old fourth-generation farmer got married May 12, he wasn’t just getting a wife — he was getting a long-time family friend and a veterinarian to boot.Lisa Lynn Stacey, a red-haired Florida native with a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Auburn University, had long been a friend of Chip’s sister. But all that changed in a Western-style ceremony on the farm where Chip and Lisa said their “I do’s” in a gazebo adorned with a sign proclaiming, “Welcome to the Stacey Family, Lisa.”That was the easy part. The difficult part, says Chip, was the honeymoon.”Our honeymoon was the first time in 15 years that I’ve been away from the farm for a solid week,” he said. “I’ve gone to Alfa meetings, commodity conferences, Young Farmers organization stuff where we’re gone two or three days, but being gone for a week was pretty tough. I get fidgety pretty quick even when I’m gone for two days. Cattle have to be fed. Whenever you throw a row crop operation in with cattle, something’s going on year ’round. You’re either mending fences, feeding cows, checking on cows, working cows, or you’re in the field, spraying a crop, harvesting a crop or preparing ground for a crop. It’s a year-round thing, and it’s seven days a week. We don’t run banking hours.”But this year, Chip and Lisa took enough time off to attend the Young Farmers Leadership Conference where the Conecuh County couple was recognized as the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Forestry Division, thanks largely in part to the farm’s 1,224-acre timber operation.”I think a lot of farmers are aware of the value of timber, but if they would manage their timber better, it would be a better cash flow for them,” said Chip, whose mother and father are also partners in the operation. “You’ve got to manage it just like a crop. Whenever you’re dealing with timber, it’s a long-term investment. From reforestation to your first cut is going to be 15 years before you get your first return, but the benefits pay off in the 20- to 30-year range whenever you’re able to cut saw logs, poles and high-dollar market timber. That’s what you want to progress to, but you’ve got to do that thinning and be able to select cut it to get there. It takes time for it to mature.”The average age of most (1,050 acres) of the Stacey timberland is 45 years, and provides a natural habitat for the farm’s wildlife management program and 30-year-old hunting club. Eighty-six acres are in the Conservation Reserve Program and due for a second thinning next year. A 28-acre pine plantation is due for thinning in 2012, and 40 acres of clear-cut was replanted this year.”We thin stands of timber where thinning will improve growth and clear-cut mature and unproductive stands, and re-establish young trees,” said Chip, adding that the farm contracts out its reforestation efforts with 750 loblolly pines per acre.But Chip is quick to point out that Lisa’s main contribution will come in improving the farm’s 350-head commercial cow-calf operation.”Her veterinary background is going to be a vital role in helping improve our cattle herd,” said Chip. “We’ll be more up to date on checking these cows and replacement heifers. I guess one of the things we’ve learned with her having a veterinary medicine degree is vaccination methods. And one thing that I think she’s probably seen more as she helps with our cows is that there are a lot of things you can do with cattle but you’ve got to look at the cost input.”Lisa agreed. “There are things that they don’t teach you in school that you just have to learn for yourself,” she said. “If you have a cow that’s worth $400 and you put $500 into it, it’s just not worth it. I’ve had experience working around bulls, but I’ve had more ‘book stuff.’ I’d like to see us improve our herd. But you have to think about future plans like ‘How many bulls do we need? How many head of cattle do we need?’ We need more bulls down there.”She is also eager to help with one of Chip’s long-term goals — a bucking bull breeding program that will not only bring in additional income, but also allow Chip to safely keep a hand in the sport he competed in for five years.”I wasn’t a champion by any means,” said Chip, “but I wasn’t afraid to ride anything they had.”But when he rattles off the injuries the bulls dealt him — three cracked vertebrae, cracked skull, torn rotator cuff, all fingers broken, broken tibia — Lisa simply shakes her head in disbelief.”I can see myself rolling him around in a wheelchair when he’s 40,” she says.”It’s all about balance,” Chip continues undeterred.”It’s all about being nuts!” counters Lisa, emphasizing that her husband’s bull-riding days are over.Indeed, the farm’s diversity also includes 248 acres of corn, 115 acres of soybeans, 68 acres of wheat, a bagging operation, and enough multi-purpose farm machinery like dump trucks and bulldozers to keep Chip working virtually around the clock — if not for himself, then for others.”When we purchase a piece of equipment, we look at what it else can do for us,” said Chip, who earned associate degrees in machine work and electrical. “You’ve got to look at how fast that piece of equipment will pay for itself. You’ve got to know if you’re gaining more than you’re losing. One of the things we’ve always said around here is, ‘If we’ve gotten along without it for this long, do we need it today? If we don’t need it, don’t get it.’
“A dump truck is probably overkill just for hauling corn wheat or soybeans, but I’m also able to haul lime or fertilizer,” he added. “I’m able to pick up dirt-hauling jobs on the side and bring in extra cash flow. We do Bush Hogging. We do dozer work. I do a lot of shop repair and service neighbors’ tractors. I do welding … we’re pretty broad.”Multi-purpose, multi-use. That’s the way to go, says Chip.No wonder, then, that Lisa’s roles in this family operation are still being defined. She’s a wife. She’s a veterinarian. And, Chip might add, she’s now family.”We’re very family oriented,” says Chip. “We all work together. I think that’s what makes a family strong.”

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