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OYFF: Hay Days For Smith Family Mean Daddy’s Finally Home To Stay

OYFF: Hay Days For Smith Family Mean Daddy’s Finally Home To Stay
October 21, 2008 |

The walls and ceilings are made from trees cut right off the family’s farm — poplar, birch, red oak, maple. The mantle will be cut from a 40-foot red oak tree he picked out years ago for that very purpose. The basement, where he says he’ll spend free time, was dug a decade ago.It’s not yet completed, but Josh Smith beams when he talks about his new home — a five-bedroom, three-bath custom-built job with 3,600 square feet. But the best thing about it, he says, is the house payment — a big, fat zero.”I’ve wanted this for 10 years,” he says. “I would haul logs and come in on weekends and put the wood up and put the screws up, everything, help wire it, the whole nine yards.”For Josh, it’s further validation that hard work brings rewards such as winning the Hay and Forage Division of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family competition. It’s an honor he says is rightfully shared with wife Denise, 3-year-old daughter Jaycee and 1-year-old son, Seth.In fact, it’s the second time the family has been so honored, having captured the OYFF’s Forestry Division back in 2006. Today, timber remains a vital part of their Randolph County operation, which also includes his older brother Scott and father Jimmy with whom he planted 26 acres of pines back when Josh was just 5 years old.”I’ll remember that as long as I live,” said Josh. “On that note, I’ve just purchased 10,000 longleaf seedlings to plant with my kids this winter. They may be too young to remember it, but I’ll tell them about it.”His wife and kids are also there when it’s hay-balin’ time. Although the kids can’t do much lifting of the 70-pound hay bales, Josh says Denise is another story. “She can lift as much or more than I can,” said Josh. “She’s throwing these square bales four feet off the ground onto a flatbed trailer. She’s a worker, I’m telling you.”Denise, whose main responsibility is watching over the family’s eight layer houses, says she enjoys loading the heavy bales. “It doesn’t feel that heavy,” she shrugs. “They always want me to drive the truck, but I don’t want to drive — I like to load.”That’s a good thing, too, considering the Smiths are averaging 3,000-3,500 square bales of Russell Bermuda a year and about 450 round bales of fescue hay each cutting from three fields totaling 125 acres.That’s down from 190 as the Smiths, like many hay and forage producers, have repurposed some of their hay fields for pasture, cutting production due to the crunch of rising diesel costs and high fertilizer prices.”We try to sell the square bales to help us compensate for the fuel costs, but why sell a round bale for 50 bucks when you can get $75 for it as a square bale?” asked Josh. “As for the rolled hay, when we first started rolling it, our fields weren’t in the shape they are now. We’ve really worked on them.”Years ago, Josh said, the farm averaged only 250 round bales, but that was because the Smiths only had two poultry houses at the time. “As we progressed, we had more litter. More houses, more litter, more hay. So that’s where our fields have come into play. We had to buy a bunch of fertilizer six years ago, but now we have our composted litter and that makes up for it. It’s definitely a big part of our farm. Without the hay, you don’t feed the cows.”This winter, there’ll be more than enough hay for his 150 head of cattle. His 45-foot flatbed trailer is loaded down with square bales he’s selling to area horse owners, but he’ll probably be selling some of the round bales. “It depends on the price, how the market looks,” Josh said. As for the flatbed trailer, there’s no sense unloading it because the trailer isn’t being used since he’s given up the trucking job that kept him away from home way too many nights. Asked if high fuel prices were to blame for that, Josh replied, “Fuel and these two little babies. I want to watch these kids grow up.”The biggest thing I wanted to do with the trucking was to pay for this house, and it paid for it,” he added. “It accomplished the major goal of paying for the house. I guess you sacrifice to have something later on. So that’s what we did. Denise understood it — she took care of the chicken houses completely. She took care of them two years straight by herself — all I did was come home, clean ’em out and be gone again.”It was such a harried life that he almost missed the birth of his son. Denise began having labor pains around 3 a.m., and called Josh as he was waiting for the gates to open at a log mill almost four hours away, so he could unload.”I was a nervous wreck,” Denise said. “I was like, ‘Is he here yet? Is he here yet?'””She waited on me,” Josh said with a laugh. “The boys at the mill let me in early, unloaded me and got me out,” Josh said. “It was pretty neat. I thanked those boys! I went back later and took ’em some eggs and showed them pictures (of Seth).”Denise likes having Josh home, too. “He can help me pick up eggs when he’s not baling hay,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of eggs right now so he really helps me out. And then we have the kids here, too, so his being here really helps.””The farm was getting so big, and I got so busy that I just decided to come home fulltime,” Josh said. “Of course, I’ve got the house finished, too. So, I’m done. You just don’t know how much I enjoy it.”

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