Special to The Mountain Advocate
After spending 29 years as an agriculture educator, John Bays retired seven years ago to pursue his passion of becoming a full time farmer. In doing so, he and his wife Anne have turned their Moonlight Farm into one of the most productive and efficient operations in the region.
The Bays farm consists of commercial cattle, grass-fed Scottish Highland cattle, Red Waddle hogs, quarter horses and free-range poultry along with grass and legume hay.
The Highland cattle are born on the farm and raised there until processed for beef. The individual beef cuts are then sold at farmers’ markets and in CSA packages. The commercial cattle are marketed as feeders at 500 lbs. The majority of both the Highland and commercial heifers are retained for breeding purposes. In addition to the beef products sold at farmers’ markets, Bays sells pork, chicken and eggs at those venues, as well.
Bays has also worked to maintain the soil health of the farm by incorporating legumes along with several forage species to rebuild soil fertility.
He hopes to build new barns for hay and equipment storage, continue to improve forages and expand meat sales to the Internet.
Bays has been a member of the Knox County Farm Bureau for more than 15 years, a state convention delegate for 3-plus years, secretary/treasurer of Knox County FB in 2012/2013 and currently serves as vice president. He has also worked with many leadership events and local ag day events.
Bays competes with Keith Lowery of Graves County and Mike Bach of Bath County.
Judges will meet soon to conduct interviews with the finalists and visit the farms. The “Farmer of the Year” recipient will be announced at KFB’s 2015 state annual meeting in Louisville on December 4 and will receive $1,000 from the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation. All three finalists will be given a KFB jacket, and the runners up will each receive $250 from the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation.
In addition to the statewide recognition and prizes, KFB’s “Farmer of the Year” winner will represent Kentucky in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern “Farmer of the Year” contest, the South’s most prestigious agricultural award, in Moultrie, Georgia, October 18-20, 2016. Last year’s winner received a $15,000 cash award plus $2,500 as a state winner from Swisher International, the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, the choice of either $1,000 in cottonseed or a $500 donation to a designated charity from PhytoGen, and a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.