Garraway receives nod for Farmer of the Year
BOLTON, Miss. -- Gaddis & McLaurin sounds more like the name of a law firm than a general store, but since the 1870s, the name is synonymous with all manner of dry goods in the Hinds County community of Bolton.
Its expansive range of inventory 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 brought in a multitude of home and garden items.
“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 assets up.”
Garraway’s success earned him a major accolade as 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 same distinction. All 10 growers will be considered for the overall regional award at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in October.
Kyle Lewis, an agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Hinds County, nominated Garraway for the award.
“Mr. Kendall has been a friend of MSU Extension by hosting on-farm demo tests in soybean and cotton where he uses the data received in making variety selections and management decisions,” Lewis said. “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 is always ready to help in any capacity.”
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.
Garraway also operates a cotton gin, leases portions of his land for hunting, and invests in commercial and retail real estate. He has several acres of solar panels installed as a financial investment that could potentially become a solar farm.
Despite the leadership responsibilities he juggles, Garraway says his work rarely seems like a real job. He is quick to point out the heavy involvement his uncle and cousin, Ted Kendall III and Ted Kendall IV, share with him on the 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 by using minimal tillage. On about half of his acres, he uses no-till planting along with 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. This method uses less fuel and helps 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.”
MSU Regional Extension coordinator Theresa Hand said Garraway’s support of MSU Extension, 4-H, Master Gardeners, Farm Bureau and other community organizations is the center of Garraway’s success.
“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 level,” Hand says. “His enthusiasm for agriculture and his open honesty is what makes his input so valuable.”