By Doug Schmitz
SCOTTSVILLE, Ky. – From managing the books to being the primary operator of the hay roller, Sarah Jones, you could say, wears many hats on the Scottsville family farm she runs with her husband, Bart, and their 15-year-old son, Ty.
In fact, she said she “isn’t your typical farm wife. I grew up on a (fourth-generation) dairy farm in south-central Kentucky, active in 4-H and FFA activities. I attended Western Kentucky University, studying accounting and agriculture, and became a certified public accountant. I worked in Nashville for an accounting firm for a couple years before joining my husband at the farm full-time in 2006.”
She uses her financial skills to manage the office, which include human resources and payroll, accounts receivable and accounts payable, tax preparation, financial reporting, and clerking the cattle sales.
In addition, she manages the vast amount of cattle data and detailed records of the four different purebred cattle registries, and is also responsible for advertising and promotion, including print and online advertising, social media and e-mail marketing.
For her strong commitment to all aspects of agriculture, the Kentucky Farm Bureau last month announced Sarah had been named the 2022 Kentucky Farm Bureau Farm Woman of the Year.
“The award honors outstanding achievement of a woman actively engaged in production agriculture,” the farm bureau said. “Recipients personify the highest level of professional excellence in agriculture.”
Sarah and Bart own Red Hill Farms, a seventh-generation family farm and diversified livestock and crop farming operation, spanning south-central Kentucky and northern middle Tennessee.
“Red Hill Farms consists of 450 Red Angus, Simmental, SimAngus, Charolais and Angus cows; 150 purebred and crossbred sows; 20 blackface club lamb ewes; and row crops that support the livestock enterprises,” Sarah said.
She said the cattle operation utilizes artificial insemination, embryo transfer, in-vitro fertilization, DNA genomic analysis, and extensive production/performance records to produce bulls and females for their on-farm cattle sales held the third Saturday in March, third Monday in May, and last Saturday in October.
The swine operation is a farrow-to-finish operation that provides breeding stock to customers across the United States and foreign countries, she said.
“Additionally, top hogs are sold to local butchers year-round for local pork,” she said.
Ty primarily manages the sheep enterprise. She said he has taken “a keen interest in all aspects of the farming operation, and said one day, he wants to do what his mom and dad do.
“Ty is also very involved in the breeding decisions and management of both the hogs and cattle,” she said. “He has an unusual ability to memorize pedigrees of every animal on the farm, including the ability to recite the pedigree of most any livestock in the pasture or pen. Our family enjoys spending time together exhibiting market lambs.”
She said the operation’s crops consist of corn, sorghum, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat, rye and triticale.
“Corn is grown for both grain for the hogs and cattle, as well as corn silage for the cattle operation,” she said. “Sorghum silage adds to the diversity of feedstuffs, and the chopping window for harvesting. Soybeans are grown as a cash crop.
“Three years ago, alfalfa was added to be used as a supplemental protein source for cattle and forage for sheep. (Sarah is also the primary operator of the hay roller, baling over 2,000 rolls of hay every year). Wheat is occasionally harvested for grain, but primarily harvested for haylage for the cattle, as is the rye and triticale.”
She said, “The mission of Red Hill Farms is to be good stewards of the land, promote excellent husbandry practices and treat animals with respect; give back to the community, and provide superior genetic products to increase customer profitability, and enhance consumer appeal of U.S. beef and pork.”
She said when Bart came to the farm after graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1996 to raise pigs, “He quickly learned that a diversified operation would be beneficial. He added 10 commercial cows and seven acres of burley tobacco to the existing 30-purebred sow operation.”
By 2006, Red Hill Farms held their very first registered cattle sale on the farm. Sarah and Bart grew tobacco until 2019, raising more than 170 acres for several years.
The tobacco enterprise helped the young couple acquire and pay for land. However, tobacco production became an unprofitable enterprise, and Sarah and Bart made the difficult decision to stop burley tobacco production and focus on their livestock. They purchased over 1,000 acres and a farm on over 1,000 additional leased acres.
In 2008, Bart and Sarah were awarded Kentucky Farm Bureau Outstanding Young Farm Family; Top Ten Achievement Award by the American Farm Bureau in 2009; and Red Hill Farms was recognized as the 2017 Red Angus Association of America National Breeder of the Year.
In 2016, Sarah was selected to represent the American Simmental Association at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Young Cattlemen’s Conference. She is a member of the Kentucky 4-H Hall of Fame, being awarded the Outstanding 4-H Certified Livestock Leader award this year.
Sarah enjoys visiting with existing and prospective customers when staffing the Red Hill Farms booth at trade shows, like the Tennessee or Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention, often leaving Bart at home to manage farming operations. Many days, she can also be found outside of the office – especially since she is their operation’s sole cattle artificial insemination technician.
Moreover, you will find her preparing the guest house for out-of-town cattle customers, preparing home-cooked meals (including homemade biscuits, farm-raised country ham and red-eye gravy) for family and farm visitors; driving around town picking up parts and supplies; “and trying to be the best mother” to Ty.
According to the 2012 USDA Census, the number of female farmers in Kentucky continues to grow. In 2017, 42,946 women farmed in Kentucky, up nearly 37 percent.
In October, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles signed a proclamation, naming Oct. 11 as Kentucky Women in Agriculture Day.
“The number of women farmers in Kentucky and across the globe keeps growing,” he said. “Their influence, knowledge, and strong leadership skills are a genuine bonus for agriculture and its future. Acknowledging that is the purest form of gratitude we can show those who give of themselves on our farms, for their families and for our own.”
Recognizing the importance of women in Kentucky’s farming sector, Quarles presented the proclamation at the 23rd Annual Kentucky Women in Agriculture conference, Oct. 10-12, in Owensboro, Ky.
“Each year, the Kentucky Women in Agriculture organization brings together a community of like-minded female leaders in and around farming industries to learn from, collaborate with, and to promote one another,” said Babette Overman, Kentucky Women in Agriculture president.
“We are so appreciative of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s support of our conference and our young women’s scholarships,” she added. “We are thrilled to join (the Kentucky Department of Agriculture) and Commissioner Quarles in proclaiming Oct. 11, 2022, ‘Kentucky Women in Agriculture Day.’”
Sarah said 2022 is the second year for the Kentucky Farm Bureau Farm Woman of the Year award.
“I was runner-up in 2021,” she said. “I appreciate Kentucky Farm Bureau wanting to recognize farm women that are influential in production agriculture.
“There are many ladies in Kentucky deserving of this award. I am elated and feel very honored to have been selected as the 2022 recipient. I am grateful and blessed.”