Tuesday evening nearly 350 Farm Bureau members packed the Jackson County Agricultural Conference Center on Pennsylvania Avenue for the annual Jackson County Farm Bureau (JCFB) Membership meeting. Jeff Pittman President of JCFB welcomed everyone and recognized elected officials and special guests. Jeff Crawford JCFB secretary and Hank Floyd JCFB Vice President conducted the formal business of the evening.
Doug Mayo our Jackson County Extension Agent had the honor of introducing 2014 Jackson County Outstanding Farm Family – John Hill Family to members. The following is Mayo’s introduction:
Three generations of family work together under the name of Hill and Hill Cattle Company. John (B.) Hill and his fiancé Melanie Baggett, his mother Joann, and his sister Olivia, and her three children: Hayley, Ben and Claire work together as a family to farm in the Simsville Community.
The farm got its start when John (P.) Hill and Joann started a farming operation in 1970 with the purchase of 30 acres in the Rocky Creek Community raising yearling cattle. A year later they had their son John and a few years later along came Olivia. In 1988 they sold the original 30 acres, which provided the equity to purchase the first 160 acres of land they still farm. With the additional land, John started a cow-calf operation and also started raising peanuts. Next they purchased 30 head of registered Angus heifers from the Thompson Brothers Farm and started building a top notch herd of purebred cattle. Tragically John was killed in a car accident in 1996. At 25 years old, the young man who had learned the farming business from his father suddenly had to take over the management of the farm.
John (B.) Hill, aka Johnny, or “Wugga”, as his father dubbed him, has spent the past 18 years honing his skills at ranching and farming. To do that he has stuck to growing the three things he can do well: cattle, peanuts and hay. He now farms a combination of land that he owns, as well as renting what was the Pete Sims Farm, now owned by his sons Mike, Alec and Danny Sims.
John has built his herd up to 330 head of purebred and commercial cattle. From his father’s original base Angus herd, John has developed 125 head of quality registered females, and is in the process of developing a herd of SimAngus (registered crosses of Simmental and Angus). He has a unique system for marketing his cattle. His heifers are sold to Champion Hill Angus for use a recipient cows in their embryo transfer operation. His purebred bulls are sold after weaning to be developed and resold as commercial herd sires. His steers are vaccinated, weaned and fed for 45 days before being sold through the Alabama SAFE Board Sale in Dothan. John has worked to create a consistent market outlet where his cattle bring top dollar every year.
Peanuts were also a farming craft John learned from his father. Cattle ranching and peanut farming work well together. None of the farm is irrigated, so John, like his father before him, has relied on one of the best known farming practices to ensure consistent success, crop rotation. He grazes a pasture for five years and then rotates with a year of peanuts. The long grass rotation prevents nematode and disease problems that can limit the yield and quality of peanuts. The grasses help to build up organic matter, and the peanuts leave nitrogen for the grass crops that follow. After the peanuts are harvested, John uses these fields to plant annual winter forages, which provide excellent grazing to annually boost the productivity of his herd. Once the winter pasture plays out, he plants bahiagrass, which remains until it is time for peanut planting once again. His reputation as a top notch peanut farmer helped him secure a contract with Golden Peanut to produce their “seed peanuts”, which the company then sells to other farmers for use in peanut planting. In 2012, with ideal weather, John’s whole farm peanut average yield was 6,280 pounds per acre. Even last year, with all of the excessive rain, he was still able to average 5500 pounds per acre on all of his peanut fields.
Perhaps what John has become most known for in Jackson County is his eye for cattle selection. He has a special talent for picking the type of cattle that are structurally sound, functional and productive. Many ranchers rely on his keen eye and skill to help them select their breeding stock for their herds. When asked about this special talent John said, “Being born into it (the cattle business) helps.” Cattle ranching is the only life he has known. John grew up helping his father care for cattle every day. As a teenager, he spent a few summers working for his Uncle, Paul Hill, a world renowned Angus breeder in Ohio, who owns Champion Hill Angus. While he is known for growing quality peanuts, his reputation as a “Cowman’s cowman” has made him a true asset and friend to the ranchers of Jackson County.
Please join me in congratulating the family of John Hill, of Hill and Hill Cattle Company. The 2014 Jackson County Outstanding Farm Family.
Jackson County Farm Bureau President Jeff Pittman again took the podium to announce the winners of the Annual McMullian Scholarship. This year’s recipients were Ashton McMullian and Mary Katherine Pittman.
Alan Scheffer of Farm Bureau oversees the Jackson County Farm Bureau FFA Leadership program. This is an educational program with FFA members that exposes them to different types of agriculture in Florida. Marianna FFA member Gerri Hardin updated the members on the program and what she and others learned while visiting different farms throughout the state.
Everyone enjoyed an evening filled with great food, good laughs and a time of fellowship. Farm Bureau recognized FFA members from the Malone and Marianna FFA Chapters who were on hand to serve the meal for the evening.