The Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District has announced that Billy Pike has been honored as the 2022 “Conservation Farmer of the Year.”
He will be honored at the Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual meeting being held this Monday, March 15th, at Olive Branch Baptist Church, 2250 Milton-Bear Branch Road approximately two miles north of the Fairview Store off of State Road 250.
Pike has always been involved in farming.
“We moved around quite a bit when we were younger,” Pike said. “Probably the place I remember most was on Lake Geneva Road, where I grew up there. Dad farmed. I can remember when we were younger we always had little chores to do each morning. One of my memories there was — when we had bottle calves when dad used to milk years ago — when we would get up before school and feed those little bottle calves.”
His childhood memories revolve around those times with the family farm.
“Dad used to milk a little,” he recalled. “We raised tobacco too, back then. Of course we don’t do that anymore. It’s been awhile since we raised any tobacco.”
Pike said that he got his own small herd of calves started in the 1980s — and his farming experience grew from there.
“I’ve cattle ever since then,” Pike said. “The farm itself now is about 190 acres. There’s about 90 acres of pasture; and there’s about 70 acres of hay ground I usually mow every year — and the balance of it is in woods.”
Pike said that the hay that his farm produces is usually used to feed his herd.
“The cattle — depending in how successful the calf crop was — usually if I hold heifers back from the next year, there can be around 80 head through the summer, if everything goes right. Sometimes the calving season varies. It depends on if you hold some back from the prior year, so it just sort of varies.”
Pike says that his tillable acres are reserved for hay production, and he noted that he also does some construction and carpentry work on the side when time allows.
Pike has used the services of the Soil and Water Conservation District in the past, along with other programs provided through USDA.
“I went through a little program where you can plant some seed to help preserve the ground. It was actually like a hay,” he said of the SWCD staff. “They were very helpful down there. They’re very knowledgeable — Katie and those in her office. They’re very helpful.”
It’s quite an honor to be given this award, but Pike remains his true, modest self.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “There’s a lot of people and a lot of good farmers in the community. To be chosen — I was thankful.”
He and Tanya have their family close by, with daughter Amanda and her husband, Matt and children Ramsey and Locklan; and daughter Sydney and her husband T.J. and children Maverick and Bexlee; and son Will all living nearby.
They also pitch in when needed around the farm.
“Tanya, she helps rake hay a lot,” Billy said. “If I need a hay raker, she’s always willing to help. I’ve had T.J. and Matt both help me pulling a calf in the past. If I ever need help pulling a calf and they are available, they never hesitate to help. It’s really nice to have everyone nearby.”
He’s honored to receive the award next Wednesday, but being in front of large crowds isn’t something Pike enjoys very much.
“To me, farmers in general aren’t around a lot of people,” he said. “I’m kind of the same way. When you’re working a lot, you’re by yourself. I think that makes you a different type of person. Some people like to be around other people and some people don’t. I don’t really mind — I guess I’m just not used to it. But it’s a big honor and I’m grateful to be recognized.”