Following in his father’s footsteps, the 61-year-old Taylorsville farmer — who now is receiving assistance from his son, Dustin — recently received the Bartow County Farm Family of the Year distinction. The award, which has been presented since 1962, recognizes “family farms” and their owners’ contributions to the local agriculture industry.
“[My father] was a small farmer and he worked at General Electric years ago in Rome,” Kay said. “I always liked [farming]. When I was in high school, I’d get out and farm during the summer. When I first started, I worked for this guy [who] was a small farmer and I drove a tractor for him [during] the summer. [When] I got about 17, I bought my first tractor, a small tractor, and started farming [a] real small [operation] when I was in school.
“... I just loved it. I guess it’s that old saying, ‘It’s in your blood.’ But I’ve done carpet work too and I worked at a factory in Rome, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. [I] just [had] a love for farming. [I like] working for myself and just the enjoyment of driving the tractors and seeing the crops grow. ... You work with it and take care of [your crops], and then, when it’s time to gather, you gather. I just enjoy doing it.”
Farming full time since the 1980s, Kay’s operation is based in Taylorsville, with the majority of his production located on leased land within a 20-mile radius. Along with beef cattle, he maintains about 400 acres of soybeans, 350 acres of cotton and about 250 acres of corn.
While he initially was apprehensive about his son pursuing a farming career, Kay considers himself blessed to be working by his side.
“It means a lot to me,” Kay said. “I kind of was leery about him getting into farming because it’s such hard work ... but he seems to enjoy it. He’s got about 100 acres of crops himself ... and then he works with me, too.
“... [Farming is] in Mother Nature’s hands. It’s really a tough challenge and it’s a high risk. ... [In the 1980s and before], there were more farmers in Bartow County back then. Then most of them retired or just quit. [Farming conditions] in the early ’80s got real, real tough because of the drought.”
Held at the White Clubhouse on June 25, the 2014 Bartow County Farm Family Banquet was sponsored by Ag Georgia Farm Credit and John Carroll in cooperation with the Bartow County Farm Bureau and Bartow County Extension Service. As is tradition, Kay was selected by the award’s past three recipients — the families of Alan Matthews, Cliff Martin and Jacob Jones.
“I know he’s worked really, really hard all his life,” Dustin Kay said about his father. “... He’s done this since he was probably 17 [or] 18 years old. He started off [working] at Blanton Plow Co. ... and he bought him one single tractor and started farming with it. I think he started off with 30 or 40 acres. It just means the world to me to see him get recognized.
“He works seven days a week. He [does not] know what take a day off or a vacation means. He’s very dedicated to his work — farming and getting things done and getting things in and getting things out. He’s really dedicated to that. That’s all he knows. That’s all we know.”
Along with Kay, other individuals that were acknowledged during the annual banquet included Steve Taylor, Friend of Agriculture; Alexandria Needham, Family and Consumer Science; Tate Knight, Outstanding Future Farmer of America; and Lauren Purvis and Isaac Griner — 4-H Excellence in Agriculture.
Taylor, Bartow County’s commissioner since 2013, was recognized for his work with Taylor Farm Supply. Owned by Taylor and his wife, Sandy, Taylor Farm Supply celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2013 and is located at 12 Leake St. in Cartersville.
“The Friend of Agriculture award was started by the Bartow County Farm Bureau several years after the Farm Family [award],” Bartow County Farm Bureau President Dean Bagwell said. “It is based on somebody who has done something to help promote agriculture for the Farm Bureau or has helped the Farm Bureau achieve things. A good example will be the first winner was Henry and Tina Floyd. They were selected for allowing the Young Farmer Committee ... to meet at their place every month — out at Ladds Farm Supply. So that’s how they got selected.
“Since then it’s grown to anybody who has helped support agriculture. This year’s selection of Steve Taylor as owner of Taylor Farm Supply was because the Women’s Committee of Bartow County Farm Bureau started working in the elementary schools promoting agriculture and Steve was gracious enough to allow us to purchase some products at cost, donated some products and has allowed this program to flourish in the county school system.”