|By TIM THORNBERRY
TURNERS STATION, Ky. — By all accounts, Lynn Bailey is one of the most diversified farmers you’ll ever meet and one of the most content. His Henry County, Ky. farm includes cows, sheep, hogs, horses, chickens and there are even a couple of llamas.
Bailey credits livestock with being very good to him over the years, but his farm and farm businesses encompass many things. His operation includes a cattle hauling business; a farm store that features seasonal local produce, farm fresh meats, crafts, Amish cheese and goods, trees and shrubbery; and his latest venture of heavy duty cattle handling equipment sales.
But his passion is family and friends. Those are the people who have seen Lynn Bailey through the good times and the bad.
Like anyone who has ever dared to make a living off the land, Bailey has had his setbacks. A couple of painful incidences could have made him pack up the family and move to the nearest city and forget he ever saw a cow, but he didn’t.
“Life has been good to me,” he said as he struggled to prop up his leg while sitting on a wooden rocking chair in the farm store. “I’ve been blessed other than a few little downfalls.”
Bailey’s leg troubles are one of the little downfalls. It started in 1991 when he was kicked by a calf. He underwent several surgeries to replace his knee, the last of which led to a staph infection, which led to steel rods in his leg.
The rods keep him from bending his right leg, therefore limiting his ability to get around.
He takes it all in stride, forgive the pun, thanks to those around him and especially his 12-year-old granddaughter, Jordan Bailey.
She has spent much of her young life on the farm learning from her grandfather, which has helped her become involved in showing sheep.
“I like the animals because I have been raised around them. Papaw taught me all about them,” Jordan said. “I think he’s smart. He’s taught me everything I know about the farm. He’s taught me respect.”
Respect for him is evident as she follows him nearly everywhere he goes when she visits the farm. It is ironic that Bailey spent the last 12 years helping his granddaughter learn about the farm, and now it is she who stays close to him in that same helping manner.
“She has been a big, big help to me since I’ve been down. It never gets too hot for her, and it never gets too cold. If I have something to do, she’s always right there,” said Bailey as Jordan crawls up into his lap.
Farming is all Bailey knows whether it is in production or supply. He has spent his 66 years in agriculture. Hailing from nearby Trimble County, Bailey moved to Indiana for 18 years working in the cattle-hauling business before moving back to Kentucky in 1983.
“I still have customers up there,” he said. “People come from all over the area to the store, especially in the summertime for fresh produce. I’ve never used any kind of advertising until we made flyers for the cattle handling equipment. It’s all been by word of mouth.”
Bailey’s old-fashioned way of doing business has played out well for him. There were times when he couldn’t be at the store, so he would leave the door unlocked so customers could get what they wanted and leave the money on the honor system.
“As far as I can tell, we’ve never missed the first thing working that way. I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you expect people to trust you, you have to trust them,” he said.
Bailey’s trust in his fellow man and his positive attitude may sound a bit old-fashioned but that has always been his way whether it pertained to his 115-acre farm or his many business ventures.
He raised tobacco until 2003 and said the tobacco buyout had benefited him. However, a few years ago another one of those “downfalls” happened that could have again given him another reason to give up, but he didn’t. A nearby water tower was being sandblasted for painting.
Unfortunately the rust from the tower made its way onto the farm, causing Bailey and his wife to become ill and ruining that year’s entire tobacco crop.
“The tobacco companies won’t buy tobacco with rust on it,” he said with a little laugh. “But we survived it and everything was okay.”
Those have been Bailey’s words to live by. No matter the setbacks, everything has always been okay. He had diversified the farm in a time when that word wasn’t used. It was just something farmers did to survive, and it has worked for him and his family.
“If it works, why change it? Upgrade it a little, but why change it?” he asked. “You have to have a little of this and a little of that to make ends meet.”
If he could take the optimism he has and put it in a jar, Bailey could sell it until the cows come home. But instead he just gives it away to all who cross his path or come to the store. While his new business is just getting off the ground, it’s a fair bet that it will do well, also.
“If you treat people the way you want to be treated, you’ll get along just fine in this world,” he said.
Of all the things he has taught granddaughter Jordan, that one lesson perhaps is the most important. When you pass the store on Lacie Road in Henry County, you probably won’t see one without the other.
This Kentucky farm News was found in the December 2006 issue of Marketplace which was published in the Nov. 15, 2006 issue of Farm World.