Cattle graze on a bright, crisp morning as the sun filters through the pastures of Mississippi State’s H.H. Leveck Animal Research Center, known as South Farm. Sammy Jones, farm supervisor, makes sure the cows have all the hay and water they need. It’s second nature for a man who’s had his own cattle business since the eighth grade.
“I remember going to the bank and asking for a loan, which my dad had to cosign. I bought five cows and from that moment on, I was in the cattle business,” Jones said.
Growing up on 60 acres west of Starkville in Mathiston, the Jones family had both cows and horses he showed in 4-H during high school.
“I’ve always loved cattle and horses and putting up hay,” Jones said.
Jones has been a part of the MSU family for 14 years, serving as farm supervisor for the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station since 2019. Prior to that, he was facilities supervisor of the sustainable bioproducts complex in the College of Forest Resources. He’s hardworking and handy, experienced in construction and carpentry and life on the farm.
The MAFES farm includes 1,110 acres of grazing land and houses the beef, poultry, equine, aquaculture and facilities units.
Jones oversees a team of six full-time employees and one student worker to maintain the farm’s 60 pastures. They build animal pens, install and repair the 10 miles of fencing and keep the roads and waterlines in good working order. They keep the water troughs filled and maintained, plant rye grass and harvest hay, along with equipment upkeep and a host of other duties to make sure the farm is running optimally. Each year, they harvest about 1,700 large round bales and 3,500 small square bales of hay.
Jones, ever the early riser, is at the farm most days by 6:30 a.m. In the summer months the crew may begin earlier, sometimes at 5 a.m. to get ahead of the weather. He said he enjoys the variety of work from day to day.
“You never know what each day will bring. Things can change depending on the weather or what’s needed on the farm,” he said.
He’s also up for any task, it seems, and likes to stay busy. At home, in addition to cattle, he bales about 300 acres of hay each year. He also builds—whether that’s constructing metal buildings with a friend or helping his children. He and his wife of 42 years have two children and five grandchildren.
“I built my daughter’s house and helped my son finish the inside of his,” said Jones, who noted his oldest grandson will attend Mississippi State in the spring. “I’ve got a great family. I’d do anything for them.”