He has a knack for getting in and out of farm enterprises at the right time. Tobacco, hogs and stocker cattle are some of the enterprises that he built up and then eliminated.

At one time, he had 200 sows and raised five acres of burley tobacco. He raised broiler chickens on contract for a year in a rented house. One year, he sold 5,000 bundles of cornstalks to a wholesale customer for ornamental use.

In past years, he produced stocker cattle. He bought them when they weighed 600 pounds and sold when they weighed 800 to 850 pounds. He discontinued his stocker enterprise to devote more time to Grandaddy’s Farm.

Dixon still has a 20-head beef herd and sells his calves in graded feeder calf sales when they reach about 550 pounds.

 “Marketing is important, and my marketing decisions result from much planning and studying,” Dixon says. “I sell grain directly to end-users or processors.” He uses several marketing tools, including forward contracts, on-farm storage, basis contracts, put options and spreads. Spreads involve buying puts and selling calls in the futures markets.

Baled rye and wheat straw add an important value-added component. He sells some 50,000 bales of straw annually, mainly for road construction projects to customers as far away as Birmingham, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn.

One implement that has helped his straw business has been a Bale Band-It is pulled behind his baler. As the bales exit the baler, they are directed into the Band-It, and when 21 bales are in the chamber, the bales are bundled together in an easy-to-move package. Dixon says this implement eliminates much of the hand labor in handling hay and straw.

“His marketing is what makes his straw business successful,” says Ed Burns, Franklin County Extension agent. Dixon also helps Burns by providing land for corn, soybean and wheat variety trials.

Dixon uses no-till planting and grassed waterways to conserve soil. He protects the environment by fencing cattle out of streams and woodlands.

He uses a yield monitor on his combine, along with automated steering and guidance for his sprayer and fertilizer spreader. In recent years, he focused on sampling soil for nutrients in ten-acre and smaller grids.

This year, he started using a Kentucky-based crop consultant service named Wheat Tech to scout his wheat crops and improve the timing of fertilizer, fungicide and insecticide applications.

The Franklin County Livestock Association and the Tennessee Forage and Grassland Council have recognized his forage production. He has taken part in a Tennessee Extension leadership development program. He also uses the Tennessee Extension MANAGE program for farm and financial planning.

His farm was selected for Agri-21 Farming Systems sponsored by land-grant universities in the Tennessee Valley region. Selected farms host farm tours, field days and the like to teach sustainable farming practices to other farmers. “I was brought into this program to teach others about effective marketing,” he adds.

In Franklin County, Dixon serves on the County Planning and Zoning Board. He also sits on the local Farm Bureau and Soil Conservation District boards. He is an active member of the Franklin County Livestock Association and has been on a local Extension advisory committee.

He also served on a Farm Credit board and was active in Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers. He serves on a Tennessee Farm Bureau commodity committee and is a director of the Lower Middle Tennessee Video Board Sale.

Steve and his wife Karen are active members of First Baptist Church in Decherd, Tenn. Karen serves on an advisory committee for Franklin County Extension. In past years, she helped on the farm with tobacco harvesting, hog farrowing and straw baling. Now she mainly works at Grandaddy’s Farm.

Steve and Karen have three young adult children, Andrew, Stephanie and Philip. Andrew also works at Granddaddy’s Farm. Philip is studying diesel mechanics and works on the farm when he isn’t in school. Stephanie is a journalism student at the University of Tennessee.

Robert Burns with the University of Tennessee Cooperative Extension Service is state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.