K.L. Smith Farms

Perry, Georgia

K.L. Smith Farms

Perry, Georgia

Located in the central Georgia city of Perry, K.L. Smith Farms is owned and operated by Kirkland and Gwen Smith.

A part-time farmer

During the week, Kirkland is a warehouse analyst and systems engineer, traveling most days. Seemingly every other minute, he’s a rural entrepreneur. He owns a landscaping company, a tax business and farms 800 acres in his “free time.”

As Kirkland describes it, “some people like to golf to relax, I like to farm.”

Growing his farm

When Kirkland was growing up, his father had a farm. His childhood thrill of driving tractors meant that by the time he was a teenager he was helping run his father’s farm. As a young adult he took a different career path and turned to landscaping before circling back to farming.

A part-time farmer, Kirkland began in 2014 with 60 acres. In the five years since, he has grown his farm to approximately 800 acres and employs local help to keep the crops in top shape. In 2021, Kirkland grew 200 acres of peanuts and 600 acres of cotton, classic Southern crops grown together in rotation for the legumes to restore and improve soil health following cotton harvests. About his ambitious expansion Kirkland says “I started working with AgGeorgia in 2015, and they have been instrumental in helping me grow. Without them I could not farm.”

Finding support to start farming

Starting out as a beginning farmer Kirkland says his biggest challenge was learning all the ins and outs of how to take care of the crops. He has appreciated and relied on help from both the University of Georgia and AgGeorgia programs. The beginning farmer programs with AgGeorgia have helped Kirkland with his most important investments in the farm, including his shed, operation help and financing equipment.

On approaching farming from a business perspective, Kirkland says “you have to understand numbers,” which is a strength for him. Each year he reviews his business plan and goals for growth with his relationship manager at AgGeorgia, Lee Lister. As Lee puts it, “Farming is difficult in the best of times and having someone on your side who understands that is a huge help. I’m here for Kirkland year in and year out. We’re here for the good years and the bad years.”

Looking to the future

Kirkland hopes for a blockbuster year in 2021. Looking toward the future, Kirkland plans to continue to grow his farm operation to 1,200 acres.