April 1, 2021, Reston, Virginia – Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative honored the Gray Family and their farm, Grayhouse Farm as the Producer of the Year at its Virtual Annual Meeting on March 31, 2021.
“We are proud to name Grayhouse Farm as our Producer of the Year” said Kevin Swatterwhite, First Vice President of Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative. “The work they’ve done to produce a high-quality product with sustainable solutions in mind and while ensuring strong workforce development and animal care makes them more than worthy of this honor.”
Grayhouse Farm is owned and operated by Jimmy and Andy Gray. The brothers took over the farming operation from their parents, Reid and Peggy Gray. The family built a new dairy about four years ago and now milk around 1,200 cows in a double 20 parallel direct load expandable parlor. They have about 1,800 head total in the herd.
“We chose to go to a green field setting, which was just a corn field,” Andy Gray said. “We did things the way that you should design it from the get-go.”
The new barns were designed with cow comfort at the fore front. The barns feature deep sand bedded stalls and fans and better sorting pens and gates to allow for minimal cow stress. The Grays consult with their veterinarian, nutritionists and employees often. The family employs more than 20 staff members, all dedicated to the proper handling of cows.
The Grays are dedicated to sustainability. The three new freestall barns are cleaned three times a day via a flush system, which pushes waste into a four-stage lagoon. That lagoon is then utilized for reuse on the farm by supplying fertilizer to the farm’s 2,000 acres of crops. The farm also utilizes no-till cropping and has planted switch grass and pines for wildlife and forestry management, both of which are considered top environmentally-friendly practices.
“It’s reusing the animal waste that fertilizes the crops that feeds the cows that makes the waste that fertilizes the crop,” said Jimmy Gray. “It’s just one big circle.”
On top of that, the farm has worked with the State of North Carolina to create conservation areas within their farmland which surrounds some of the creek beds and streams that feed into the Catawba River. These areas are fenced off from livestock, keeping the streams and creeks free from animal waste. Cattle are instead watered via tanks in their pastures.
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 North Carolina 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.”
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