At 28, the Kingston resident became the youngest individual to receive the Bartow County Farm Family of the Year distinction. The award, which has been presented since 1962, recognizes "family farms" and their owners' contributions to the local agriculture industry.
"When I won I was excited," Jones said. "That's all I really ever wanted to do was farm. So I thought it was a pretty good honor to be selected for that. They said I was the youngest that [had ever] got it.
"The little program at the banquet had all of [the past winners listed] on there from back in the '60s and I knew a lot of them -- not some of the older ones, but from the '80s up I knew a lot of them [as far as] people that are still farming. So that's pretty cool. All the big farmers around the county are on there."
A field representative with Pilgrim's Pride since 2005, Jones has been overseeing his 160-acre Double J Farms on Hall Station Road since the early 2000s. Once part of his great-grandfather's property, the farm now annually yields about 500 round bales of hay and produces 840,000 broiler chickens -- or seven flocks of 120,000 birds -- for Pilgrim's Pride. In addition to renting 50 acres, Jones also has recently expanded his farming operation by purchasing 10 acres -- located on Stoner's Road in Adairsville -- in which he has retrofitted two existing chicken houses.
"I usually get up and check on the chickens," Jones said, describing his daily routine. "Then I go to work. I work for Pilgrim's Pride also. I'm a field service rep for them -- a service tech -- [so] I check other people's farms that grow for them.
"So I'll check on the chickens, go to work, come home and [do] whatever needs to be done then -- mowing hay, clearing land and some more work with the chickens. Then usually it's about 8 or 9 o'clock before I get done every day. ... All I've really ever wanted to do is just farm. I don't know why. I've always been carried away with tractors and hay balers and bulldozers and dump trucks and just anything to do with farming."
While his ultimate goal is to add cattle to his farming enterprise, Jones currently is busy clearing pasture land and harvesting hay. With 128 rolls baled so far, he expects to be cutting hay for another month, depending on the weather.
"[In the long term] what I want to do is farm full time," Jones said. "You're kind of on your own schedule. As far as growing chickens, when you sell your chickens, it's a competitive type contract. When you sell your chickens, you're competing against other chicken growers and that really determines your pay. So the better job you do on your chickens, the more money you make. So it's about money but it's about bragging rights, being competitive. And I just love for people to pull up and say, 'Oh, you've got a good bunch of hay there' or 'Your place looks nice' or 'When are you selling your chickens?' ... I just like it.
"I think it's a good, honest living. There's always something to do. I don't think it would be for everybody. You've always got something tore up or you've always got something to do when there's something else you need to be doing ... [In the future] I'd like to have about 50 head of cattle there at the farm and build me two more chicken houses and that'd be good enough."
Held at Cartersville's Barbecue Street on May 9, the Farm Family Banquet 2011 was sponsored by Ag Georgia Farm Credit and John Carroll in cooperation with the Bartow County Farm Bureau and Bartow County Extension Service. As is tradition, Jones was selected by the award's past three recipients -- the families of Mark Floyd, Talmadge Hollaran and Steve Worthington.
"The names are selected from the past three farm families," said Bartow County Farm Bureau President Dean Bagwell, adding the award can be presented to a single individual like Jones because "farm family" refers to the type of farm -- a family operation and not a large corporate entity. "So it means you pretty much have some knowledge of the farming families around, and it's never repeated. There's been some father/sons but it's never been the same person [twice]. [The list] shows how agriculture has changed in Bartow County, the diversity of it. It's basically gone from a row crop into a poultry- and cattle-type industry.
"There's still significant row cropping but there's not as much as there was back when it started. ... [With the Farm Family Banquet] we try to recognize the youth in the county as far as the 4-H and the FFA and the FCCLA, that's family consumer science, [in addition to] the Farm Family. It's just something that's been going on for a number of years. Basically what I'm trying to do with it is to show that farming is still viable in Bartow County. A lot of people say it's gone from Bartow County but it's just changed from what everybody associates with farming."
Along with Jones, other individuals that were acknowledged during the annual banquet included Louis Hunt, Friend of Agriculture; Desiree Putman of Woodland High School, Family and Consumer Science; Christina Garner of Woodland High School, Outstanding Future Farmer of America; and Kelly Miller of Woodland High School, Brock Hufstetler of Cartersville High School and Emily Pike of North Paulding High School -- 4-H Excellence in Agriculture.