By Cindy Jo Ayers
Gray Smith was named the 2017 Outstanding Cattleman by the Gilchrist County Cattlemen’s Association. The award was presented at the Annual Gilchrist County Cattlemen’s meeting on Tuesday, October 24. Gray Smith and his wife Kathy Jo received the award from Charles Bryant, the local Cattlemen’s Association Vice President. Bryant said, “Smith’s cattle operation consists of about 60 brood cattle in the Northwest part of the county. He also grows and bails his own hay for his cattle.”
Smith has always had an interest in the cattle industry, buying his first 10 brood cows back in 1979. Their cattle operation is located on 100 acres near Log Landing. They purchased their first 80 acres from Kathy Jo’s parents Joey and Kathryn Holder. Later they added an additional 20 acres and they also rent adjoining land from neighbors.
Smith’s wife and children Ty and Jennie have all had a significant role in the growth and maintenance of their cattle operation.
Smith said, “I cut my teeth in the cattle industry on Mr. A.D. Andrews farm from 1978-1980. He was running about 600 cows on his farm and some other Andrews property around the Long Pond area. It was a remarkable education and I got to interact with several of the old Levy County cowboys that are now gone on.”
Smith says his wife and entire family have been supportive of his passion for cows. He has fond memories of his children on the farm. He said, “One of my earliest memories of my own herd was back when we fed daily with square bales of hay. I would put my 3 year old daughter Becca behind the wheel of my truck and she would steer across the field as I dumped out square bales. It’s also where she learned to count by helping me check cows and calves daily.” Now his grandsons Bennie and Abe, that he thinks might have inherited some of his love for cows, enjoy visiting the farm.
Smith believes the Cattlemen’s Association is doing good work and local leadership should be commended for what a good job they are doing for Gilchrist County.
Smith grew up near Gulfport, Florida, attended the University of Florida where he graduated in 1978 and then moved to Gilchrist County. He began his career in education as an agriculture teacher in Lafayette County in 1980. The next year he became the ag teacher in Bell and taught there for seven years. Later he had a nursery and landscaping business for about seven years. Then once again became an ag teacher in Lafayette County for several years then worked in the administration. He returned to BHS as a teacher in the mid 1990s. He has spent most of his career teaching ag or science. During his career he was named both Lafayette County and Gilchrist County Teacher of the Year.
Smith, who has now lived a majority of his life in Gilchrist County, said there is no place like home. He enjoys life with his family on the farm and he looks forward to what the future holds for their family cattle operation.