The Gray Family of North Carolina have been named the District 3 Producer of the Year for 2020, the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative announced Thursday. Brothers Andy and Jimmy Gray, alongside their families, run Grayhouse Farms, Inc. in Stony Point, North Carolina. The District Producer of the Year award recognizes a cooperative member for outstanding farm management practices and environmental sustainability in each district.
The Grays manage 1,800 head of cattle, including 1,200 in the milking operation. The farm’s cows call three freestall barns home, which include sand bedding and a flush system. Barns are flushed three times a day and sand is recovered from the system for reuse.
“We are so proud of the Grays for earning this honor,” said Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative CEO, Jay Bryant. “Their farm is the definition of what Maryland & Virginia farmers are doing to take care of their land and their animals day-in and day-out. Between their excellent farm management practices to their training program for their farm employees, the Grays are helping show our customers and end-consumers that our farms work to produce high-quality milk in a sustainable way.”
Reuse is a common theme on Grayhouse Farm. The farm also utilizes a four-stage lagoon with two center pivots to cover portions of their 2,000 acres of crops. Corn makes up the majority of their output and the farm also harvests soybeans and wheat. For sustainability, the farm uses no-till cropping and has planted switch grass and pines for wildlife and forestry management. Additionally, the Grays utilize best management practices like fencing livestock off from streams and upgrading fence lines and bunk feeding lines to reduce mud and soil impact.
Outside of the brothers and their families, the Grays employ 22 full-time and eight part-time staffers. To provide optimal care and comfort of their herd, the Grays work with veterinarians, nutritionists and animal care experts often and hold regular meetings with their staff. They encourage staff to become educated in the proper handling of animals and hold clinics for employees that are further interested in learning. The result has been high production yields for the farm.
The Grays are important advocates for farming and dairy in their community. They promote whole milk in schools and have created t-shirts for youth to champion drinking milk. The family donates the proceeds from that effort, with half going to the N.C. Dairy Youth Foundation and the other half to hold conservation youth events on their farm.
“Farmers are the caretakers,” says Jimmy. “We need to set the good example in our communities, and proactively tell our story to our fellow neighbors. It’s just the right thing to do.”