By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–The Athens Chamber of Commerce continued its tradition showcasing the big business of agriculture with the 50th annual Henderson County Farm and Ranch Tour May 21. The tour was capped by naming Jody Jackson Henderson County Agriculturist of the Year.
Big business it is. According to the US Census Bureau, 83 percent of Henderson County residents are involved in some form of agricultural-related commerce. The business generates $125 million in the county each year.
About 200 people joined for the tour, which began early Tuesday morning with donuts and coffee at the Henderson County Fairgrounds. After a time of visiting, the busses took off at 9 a.m. sharp.
The three stops on this year’s tour were the Milan Quarter Horse Ranch, the Dal Riata woods, wildlife and water property, and the J1 Ranch.
The first stop, at Milan, showed off a stunningly large and beautiful barn used to breed, raise and exhibit some of the finest Halter show horses in America, including the National Palomino Halter winner. Milan is owned by Kelly and Scott Trahan and managed by Tyler O’Neal.
After that, the tour headed to the lakefront property of Dal Riata, owned and operated by the Robertson family. The vision for Dal Riata is to focus on woods, wildlife and water to provide three generations of Robertsons an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The lake is fully stocked with primarily largemouth bass.
The J1 Ranch was the final stop of the Farm and Ranch tour. Agrilife Extension Agent Rich Hirsch said it was fitting to finish the tour at a cattle operation.
“As long as I have anything to do about it, the tour will always include a cattle ranch,” he said.
Chris Johnson, who runs the ranch with his mother, Patsy, said J1 is a “working ranch,” and not just for show.
The Johnsons are currently supporting 300 pair of cattle. Yearly they retain 50 head of heifers for replacements. Calves born in the spring and weaned in the fall. Calves are sold at 22 to 28 months of age, weighing about 1,100 pounds.
After the tour, the luncheon and awards ceremony began.
Hirsch, the Master of Ceremonies for the event, presented Jackson with the presages Agriculturist of the Year Award. Jackson was a Athens High School graduate and now resides in Murchison. His lifelong goal has been to farm, raise cattle and enjoy that way of life.
Jackson began with a few cattle a poultry operation, and now runs a commercial cow/calf operation raising quality Brangus replacement heifers for sale to other ranchers, a feed steer operation growing out approximately 150 steers a year, custom tractor work, baling hay and planting sprigs.
Jackson has also spent time as a trustee for the Murchison ISD, served on the ASCS county committee, was one of the first to serve on the Henderson County Beef Cattle Committee, served as a Grand Jury foreman for the Henderson County DA’s Office, was a former member of the FFA and an officer during high school, a member of Ash Baptist Church and a strong supporter of the Murchison Volunteer Fire Department.