In a county filled with newcomers, Jack Ivey is proud to be a native.
Jack, wife Lisa and nephew Alan Ivey operate a poultry and cattle farm in north Forsyth.
They were named this year’s Farm Family of the Year by the Forsyth County division of the Upper Chattahoochee River, Soil and Water Conservation District.
The organization each year chooses a local farm to receive the award in honor of its conservation efforts.
Ivey and his family have lived in Forsyth for four generations.
“We’re natives of this county and proud of it,” Ivey said. “I ain’t never been nowhere but here, and can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Ivey’s farm includes more than 300 acres on Dahlonega Highway, between Settendown Creek and the Dawson County line.
Ivey said he’s been a farmer most of his life.
“I bought my first hay baler at 14 and have been hooked on it ever since,” he said.
He spent several years working a full-time job as a truck driver for American Proteins in addition to his farming activities.
“My grandpa always said you should work hard when you’re young, so when you get older you can do what you enjoy doing,” Ivey said. “I guess that’s what I’m doing now.”
The operation includes about 110 brood cows for the family’s calf business, as well as four 400-foot long chicken houses.
The family raises about 400,000 broiler chickens for Tyson Foods each year.
They also have a custom hay-baling business, where they go to other farms to cut and bale hay.
Some of the family’s conservation efforts include fencing cattle out of streams and rotational grazing.
They also seed pastures with a no-till drill, a machine that is less evasive to soil than other tilling methods.
Lisa Ivey works a full-time office job in Atlanta, but her husband said she’s never afraid to get her hands dirty on the farm.
“She’s one of those people who can get out in the dirt and muck, feeding the cows or whatever, and then go and put her business suit on for work in downtown Atlanta,” he said.
Jack Ivey said her primary role is management, but she can handle any task.
“She’s the record keeper and the bookkeeper,” he said. “But she can also work in the chicken houses, drive a tractor, rake the hay, bale the hay, whatever. She can do it all.”
The couple doesn’t have any children, so they’ve gotten help over the years from their nephews, Russ, now a math teacher at North Forsyth High, and Alan, a junior at the school.
Alan Ivey said he loves helping on the farm, which he’s been doing for as long as he can remember.
“I just like doing things outside with my hands, and not having to sit at a desk all day,” said the younger Ivey, who’s also the treasurer of the NFHS Future Farmers of America club.
He hopes to continue the family farming business, at least on a part-time basis.
“I want to go to technical school to be a diesel mechanic, and do [farming] on the side,” he said.
Jack Ivey is happy to see his nephew carry on the tradition. It saddens him that so many young people in Forsyth are far removed from the county’s agriculture past.
“It’s troublesome to know younger kids don’t have a clue about how things used to be,” he said. “Anyone who’s a native of Forsyth County, in some way or another, [Forsyth’s] poultry industry affected your life.
“Either you worked raising chickens or in the processing plant, or had somebody in your family who did. Now kids don’t even know we raise chickens here.”
No matter how much things may change in the county, Ivey is solid in his resolve to keep doing what he’s done for so long.
“We have deep roots and we’re proud to be here,” he said.