“Down-to-Earth” Workshop Held for Sheep and Goat Producers

“I belong to the Mississippi Goat Association and I go to a lot of these things, too, but this is the most down-to-earth, informative workshop that I have ever seen.”

img_8801That was the response of one farmer who attended the Risk Management for Small Ruminant Operations workshop, hosted by NCAT’s Gulf States Regional Office in Prentiss, Mississippi on September 8.  The workshop was designed to give local farmers applicable information about small ruminant operations and how to manage risk and increase profitability.

The keynote speaker was Mr. Dewayne Smith of Greene County, Mississippi, a well-known meat goat producer in the region.  Representatives from USDA and the MSU extension service were also in attendance to answer questions about assistance programs for small ruminant operations.  NCAT Agriculture Specialist Felicia Bell also spoke about farm liability issues.

Mr. Smith shared with the group some of the knowledge he has gained from his many years of experience raising meat goats and sheep with his family.  He discussed his breeding practices, marketing, soil management, and the importance of family and a good community.

There were many pearls of wisdom in Mr. Smith’s presentation, and the following are some exceptional lessons he shared, in his own words:

He discussed the importance of setting goals, stating that his goal is “to be the top goat producer in the United States.  Everybody’s gotta have a goal.  If you don’t have a goal, what are you shooting for?”  He is working to raise high quality meat goats with good genetics to improve his herd and his profitability.

Mr. Smith is fortunate enough to have a large family that are deeply involved in the farming operation.  This comes in handy when he’s needing extra help—in fact, it sounds like his family has ruined hired help for him for good.  He said, “I can’t hire help.  The help ain’t worth a flip.  My granddaughters would just blow these boys out of the water.…. When I need something, they’re my right arm.”

He also spoke about the importance of integrity when cultivating and maintaining good relationships with neighbors and business partners.  He explained this was for personal and economic reasons: “I never take advantage of nobody.  I gotta go to sleep with myself at night, I got a conscience…People will come back and tell other people about me and it just snowballs, you know, whether it’s good or bad.  I can do ninety-nine things good, and I can do one thing bad, and the one thing bad will overshadow the ninety-nine good.”

He also explained how important it is to learn from both hands-on experience and the experience of successful farmers when you are a beginning farmer or starting a new enterprise.  “No matter what [kind of operation] we’re talking about, you cannot skip a step.  You cannot find a shortcut.  A shortcut will cost you in the end.  You have got to go through all the hardships and the learning processes, and find people who know what they’re talking about.  They got magazines and the internet—you can listen to that garbage ‘til you go bankrupt.”  He recalled a favorite saying from his father-in-law, “If you want to know about planting corn, find a man who’s got a crib of corn and talk to him.”

The farmers who attended this workshop were lucky indeed to be able to learn from Mr. Smith, and NCAT plans to collaborate with him to host more workshops this fall.  To receive notice about future workshops and other events, please sign up for ATTRA’s newsletter, Weekly Harvest, to receive notice of news and upcoming events:


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