Meet Clarksville Farmer Jay Head
The Dirt on the Farm
Farm Family: Jay Head, his wife, their newborn son and two stepchildren
Farm Legacy: Fourth generation
Crops & Livestock: tobacco, wheat, soybeans, corn, hay, and beef cattle
Farm Bureau Membership: 15 years
Q: Did you always dream of being a farmer?
A: Farming has always been in my blood and is my way of life. I was born and raised on my family’s farm and always dreamed of joining the operation when I grew up. In 2000, I joined the partnership I’m still involved in today of nearly 100 acres of tobacco and around 4,000 acres of row crops. In addition to the crops, I raise about 250 cows and produce all the hay for the cattle. I also sell bred heifers (a heifer is a female cow who hasn’t borne a calf) and have a retail beef business. My operation spans five counties, including one in Kentucky.
Q: Tennessee Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) recently named you Young Farmer of the Year. What does that mean to you and what does the YF&R organization mean to you?
A: I have been active in YF&R for 10 years and have made lifelong friends with the same interests and problems I face. There are very few organizations for young farmers to gain leadership skills and network with other young farmers, but Farm Bureau couples both and makes it fun. I wouldn’t take anything for the friendships and experiences I have gained by being active in YF&R.
Being named Tennessee’s Young Farmer of the Year is the highest honor any young farmer can achieve, in my opinion. These days, it seems farmers are criticized for doing what we love, so to be recognized for not only being committed to managing and growing a successful business, but also as a community leader and spokesperson for agriculture. I am honored and humbled.
Q: Diversifying is a way to stay viable in changing markets. How have you diversified to keep your farm sustainable?
A: We have always been diversified, but I have gone even further recently. I still raise cattle and have changed my marketing plan to add value to my animals. For a more than a year now, I have been selling bred heifers. Then I decided to get into the retail beef business to add value to a portion of my steers as well. As with any new venture, I started slow, but it is gaining momentum and now takes a large percent of steers to fulfill the need for local beef right here in my community.
Another new venture I have begun is indigo. Indigo is a plant raised very much like tobacco up until harvest and is used to produce dye for denim. I raised 2 acres this year as kind of an experiment and the opportunity to produce more in the future seems to be promising.
Q: Are you Farm Bureau proud?
A: I am proud to be involved with a great organization that unifies my voice along with every Farm Bureau member across the state to advocate for agriculture and look out for our best interests.
Q: What are your biggest challenges?
A: The biggest challenges I face today are profitability and the availability of good farmland close to home. I have been blessed this year to have yields to help offset some of the issues, but next year could be a totally different story. There are no indications prices will improve into next year, and if we don’t have the rain to produce big yields again, we will all suffer. Farming in and around Clarksville is a major challenge because of all the development in the area. As more and more acres are covered in concrete and houses, there are fewer acres to farm. This is the reason I have had to go further and further away from my own farm to find land.
Q: Statistics show the age of the farmer is increasing. How does it feel to be a young farmer in the industry today?
A: I have mixed feelings about the increasing age of the U.S. farmer. On one hand, it makes me feel like as older folks retire and turn loose land, it will create opportunity for me to grow my business. On the other hand, I wonder if there will be enough young people nationwide to continue producing an abundant food supply. I am also worried about the trend of farming continuing to get bigger and bigger.