Kendall Garraway, Mississippi winner of the 2023 Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year, works with his Kyle Lewis, agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Bolton entrepreneur cites team effort for Farmer of the Year award
Story by Nathan Gregory • Photos by Kevin Hudson
Gaddis & McLaurin might sound more like the name of a law firm than a general store, but the name is synonymous with all manner of dry goods in the Hinds County community of Bolton and has been since the 1870s.
Its growing inventory range is one reason for its longevity. Items normally found at local co-ops— animal feed, grass seed, lumber, tools, and hardware— have been the store’s calling card for much of its existence. Over time, store owner and longtime row crop producer Kendall Garraway has added a multitude of home and garden items to the store’s inventory.
“We have great management in place, and it has really grown in the last 10 years,” says Garraway. “Not only does it supply and act as a hub for the community, but it helps keep the value of the land asset up.”
Garraway’s success earned him a major accolade: he was recently named the Mississippi winner of the 2023 Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. He joins growers from nine other states who received the distinction.
The store is hardly the only business operation flourishing under Garraway’s watch. His primary focus has always been on growing row crops, raising cattle, and managing timber at his family farm, Gaddis Farms.
He also operates a cotton gin, leases portions of his land for hunting, and invests in commercial and retail real estate. In addition, he is considering whether to install solar panels that could one day expand into a solar farm.
Despite the entrepreneurial leadership responsibilities he constantly juggles, Garraway says his work rarely seems like a real job. He is quick to point out the regular involvement of his uncle and cousin, Ted Kendall III and Ted Kendall IV, in his numerous business ventures.
“I did not attend a school with an agriculture program, so I majored in banking and finance,” he explains. “After graduating, I almost went to work for a bank but was offered a job on a farm by my uncle, and I’ve never looked back.”
Garraway uses soil health and stabilization practices in his row crop operation with minimal tillage and, on about half of his acres, no-till planting and cover crops.
“We have used several programs to take highly erodible land out of row crops and into timber to better utilize and protect the soil,” Garraway says. “We have been using no-till and minimum-till on our row crops and use less fuel as well, to help prevent erosion. Hunting and wildlife have been important to me for recreation and to provide income to the farm, so habitat management has always been important.”
Kyle Lewis, a Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Hinds County, nominated Garraway for the Farmer of the Year award.
“Mr. Kendall has been a friend of MSU Extension by hosting on-farm demonstration trials in soybean and cotton, where he uses the data received to make variety selections and management decisions,” Lewis explains. “He has made great strides in timberland and wildlife management with timber harvest and prescribed fire management; he allows us to use his store for programs and demonstrations; and he’s always ready to help in any capacity.”
MSU regional Extension coordinator Theresa Hand adds that Garraway supports Extension, 4-H, Mississippi Master Gardeners, Mississippi Farm Bureau, and other locally based community organizations.
“Kendall is an influential community leader who has served on numerous boards and in advisory roles with MSU Extension at the local, regional, and state levels,” Hand says. “His enthusiasm for agriculture and his open honesty is what makes his input so valuable.”
Garraway says his overall agricultural knowledge has been enhanced by his interactions with Extension faculty and personnel.
“On-farm trials are a nice resource and I like participating in them, but, for me, the most valuable resource Extension has is its people,” he says. “The personal relationships I’ve developed over the years with specialists and agents have been rewarding, and they are easy to reach if you have a problem or if you’re looking for information.”