Steve Dixon is the 2012 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Tennessee Farmer of the Year. He is one of the ten farmers from other Southeastern states who will vie for the coveted Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year title, which will be announced at the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Ga., Oct. 16.
The Dixon family has farmed around Estill Springs, Tenn., for more than a century. Dixon got his start with father, King, and they still work together with their separate operations. Dixon has always wanted to farm, starting on his own soon out of high school, working a hog farrowing operation and tobacco. He now plants more than 1,000 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans, and he has a hay-straw operation. But he's done much more, diversifying as need to stay on the farm and provide for his family, which once included bundling thousands of cornstalks into easy-to-carry bundles that he sold to Wal-mart and other retail outlets as fall decorative pieces.
That business sense and diversity also extends to the family's newest venture, Grandaddy's Farm, which includes wife, Karen, and son Andrew, who is full time leading the marketing charge and day-to-day business for the agritainment venture. Dixon's mother, Nancy, helps. His youngest son, Phillip, is in diesel mechanic school, works the farm's small cattle herd and honey operation. Daughter, Stephanie, recently graduated with a journalism degree and grew up working the farm, too.
Over the last seven years, Grandaddy's Farm has built gradually. Now with more than 12,000 visitors annually, Dixon hopes to reach 20,000 annually visitors in the next few years. Though the business is going well, "We still aren't making our wages if you know what I mean … But it is definitely something we can keep going with to have something for the kids and for us to expand if they want to stay on the farm," he said.