Farm kids don’t often hear the familiar phrase that city kids grow up with: “You’re too young to do it.” As soon as they can walk, they’re feeding the bucket calves; at five, they’re handling sharp tools; at nine or ten, they’re driving the tractor.
That’s how Desmond Dodd grew up. Everybody in his family pitched in because that’s what farm families do, and even today, “can’t” isn’t part of his lexicon. “A farm kid doesn’t know that he’s not supposed to be able to do stuff. You just do it because, well ... who else would?” Dodd says.
As an example of Dodd’s can-do philosophy: At the tender age of 19, he already owned a small cow/calf operation and was leasing a small farm. When he wanted to add a few more to the herd, he bought an old shack and used his carpentry skills to renovate it to live-in condition, arranged to have it lifted and moved to a proper neighborhood, then sold it to raise the money to buy more cows. “The guys that moved the house ... they told me about another house so I did that one, too” says Dodd. “That got me in with a bunch of carpenters and it kind of grew from there.”
Dodd says his dad raised him to believe he could do anything, so he did.
“He taught me the 365/24/7 work ethic ... as in, this is what we do, it’s gotta be done. He said, if you decide to get into this, you’ve got to be prepared to be dedicated ... above the extra curriculars.”
After college and a stint abroad, building and renovating slowly morphed into a full-fledged career. Dodd has owned and operated Dodd Design & Construction, Inc. in Tallahassee, Florida for more than 30 years and he’s also the President of Dodd Carpentry Services, Inc.
Dodd says building homes opened the door to following the other passion he left behind as a teen — getting back into the farming life.
“An opportunity came up in 1999 when my kids were small, Dodd recounts. “My wife, Dee, and I bought land, I built our home and we got back into running a cow/calf operation. It’s a busy life but I don’t look at farming or building as work, I have too much fun doing both.”
Jesse Dumas with Farm Credit of Northwest Florida is someone who knows just how principled Dodd is about his businesses. “Desmond has an incredible work ethic and drive about him,” Dumas observes. “He’s a craftsman who takes immense pride in his work and is sought out for his attention to detail. He places extreme value on his word and will never make a promise or agree to terms that he doesn’t believe he can deliver on.”
“I love fixing things, building things with my own hands, spending time with the herd ... it’s all so satisfying to me,” says Dodd. “I find a lot of similarities between the building and the livestock raising actually. In the early days I built on spec, it’s a lot like raising a calf, you do it on faith, you do the best you can to produce a quality product and hope someone will pay you its value.”
It was Dumas who helped Dodd finance additional land next to his existing farm. “It was the perfect opportunity for Desmond to expand the cattle operation and we were thrilled to help him grow again.”
“These people at Farm Credit are a very impressive bunch of people, very well trained, helpful people ... you don’t see that everywhere and that’s driven by the people at the top,” says Dodd. “Of course, there’s a bottom line to worry about ... but it doesn't seem to be their number one focus, they want to do good.”
At 57, Dodd has no intention of slowing down (though he admits his body occasionally disagrees). His kids are grown and gone; his wife, Dee, continues to manage the books for all three of the businesses, and the couple is as happy as clams with the life they’ve built. He also sits on the board of directors at Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.
“We get instant feedback/gratification from what we do,” Dodd says. “We see what we built with our hands in a new home, we see the herd thrive. I get that on both sides of what I do every day. The beauty of my farm, the new calf crop, I feel sorry for people that don’t get to experience it!”