I grew up in the Panhandle of Florida and my Dad was a row crop farmer and a day-working cow hand while my mother raised my sister and me. Farming became tougher and tougher for my family and as a young struggling farmer in the late seventies, my father got caught up in the farm debt crisis which led to my dad having to get a job in town and stop farming full time. Although we were not a fulltime farming family in my teenage years, my childhood was filled with farm work and work in general. I was involved in FFA and participated in many things that the FFA had to offer. My parents instilled a work ethic in my sister and me that we still take pride in today. However; that work ethic also drove me in a direction away from farming as I was sure that I wanted nothing to do with production agriculture by the time I was a senior in high school.
After graduating high school I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where I served for four years as an NCO in the 2nd Marine Air Wing. Looking back that was certainly the right decision for me because I was not disciplined enough to attend college at 18 years old and I needed the structure that my service gave me during my tour. That 4 year tour took me to places I had never heard of in the sleepy little farming community 10 miles south of Dothan, AL where I was raised. I traveled to many countries in and around the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. This experience was a turning point in my life in which I started to view the world differently because I realized then that the world is much larger and diverse than I had ever realized… and I wanted to see it all.
I was granted an early release from the Marines in May of 2000 to start my educational career at our local Junior College in Marianna, FL. I then attended the University of Florida, and as many, I started down the Pre-vet path. In an overabundance of encouragement (or lack thereof) from Organic Chemistry, I was forced to change my path and started studies in Animal Science. It was during my Junior year’s internship that I became interested in Extension. After Graduation in 2004 I was hired as a beef cattle extension agent in Polk County, FL. I loved the next three years as an extension agent and I met and developed life-long friendships along the way. Subsequently I moved to Iowa and began work with Iowa State University to work with their extension agents on national animal ID and beef cattle traceability. My then fiancé, Whitney, was finishing up with her law degree at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and we knew we wanted to move back to the Southeast.
In January 2008, I accepted the position as General Manger for River Ridge Land and Cattle Company in Independence, VA. I have been in SW Virginia since then and have found that this is home and will stay that way. My wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this year and we are two proud parents of our two children Autrey 7 and Gus 5. I am proud to have been selected as a fellow for VALOR IV and I am particularly excited about the opportunity to network and gain some professional development. As a father of two young kids and plate so full I don’t know how to get it all done, VALOR is something that I probably should postpone until I have a more flexible schedule. I have also said that “All of the fun and most of the success I have had in my life was from saying yes.” There probably is not a good time to take more on, so I said yes and I am looking forward to forging deep friendships and long lasting relationships with my cohort group.