By Susan Hurt
After the Revolutionary War, the federal government awarded bounty lands to citizens and soldiers for services rendered. In its simplest form, this involved the exchange of free land to repay citizens for the risks and hardships they endured in the service of their country. One of the recipients of this land exchange was a young soldier by the name of Humphries, who received 40 acres of land in south Trigg County as payment for his service to the American colonies.
Fast forward seven generations later, and you will find 1st District State Senator Stan Humphries working that very same ground that once represented an American dream for a Revolutionary war veteran.
For several generations, the Humphries family continued to purchase land surrounding the original 40 acres and now own 600 acres where they raise commercial beef cattle and tobacco.
Stan represents Kentucky’s 1st Senate District that comprises Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Lyon, and his own Trigg County. Humphries was elected in 2012 and is the former Judge-Executive of Trigg County, a position to which he was first elected in 2006 and resigned December 31, 2012, following his election to the state senate.
Heading into his third Kentucky General Assembly session, Humphries is no longer considered a freshman in Frankfort, serving as vice chair of the state and local government committee and the appropriations and revenue committee.
He will also serve on the agriculture and veterans and military affairs committees. In 2014, Humphries was elected by fellow lawmakers from Western Kentucky to serve as vice chair of the Western Kentucky Caucus, which means he will become chairman in 2016, a role that ensures issues important to Western Kentucky are addressed and supported in Frankfort.
Humphries’ political path has taken him down many different roads, but the career that keeps him permanently planted in Trigg County is that of a farmer. Humphries officially began his profession in agriculture in 1993 when he, his sister, Stephanie Humphries, and his mother, Eunice Humphries, formed a family partnership, managing their seventh-generation farm in Trigg County.
After graduating from Murray State University and marrying his high school sweetheart, Kim Burnam Humphries, in 1993, the two settled down in his grandparent’s old home-place back on the family farm where they welcomed the eighth generation of Humphries into the world.
While the couple still resides on the family farm, just down the road from the old home place, life is busier than ever. They now have three children, Stephen, 16, Lydia, 14, and Luke, 8.
Stan grew up farming alongside his father, Harold, and grandparents, Ira and Gertrude Humphries. Stan’s grandparents were dairy farmers on the land, and Harold was a part-time farmer and manager for Southwest Tobacco before his he died in 1986 at the age of 50.
While there will always be challenges with owning and operating a family farm of any size, Stan says today’s farmers have different struggles than the ones his grandparents faced.
“Farming today is much more difficult to keep a viable operation than when my grandparents farmed,” he says. “Margins got closer, smaller than it was when he was farming, and corn is not much higher than it was 40 years ago. The inputs are a lot higher, and farms our size are hard to make a living off of.”
With Stan’s career taking him to the legislative steps of Frankfort, it is the dedication of family that keeps things running smoothly at home. Kim is a full-time teacher at University Heights Academy, and Stephanie is a full-time physical therapist, but the matriarch Mrs. Eunice, with her sweet Southern drawl, helps wherever she can.
“Mama has provided a lot of meals, babysitting, carpool service and support to the family over the years,” Stan says.
Family is what kept the Humphries farm running during the devastating ice storm of 2009.
As Judge-Executive at the time, Stan had to tend to the numerous needs of Trigg County, while the family was left to handle the dire situation at home on their own. It was all hands on deck as everyone in the family worked together to keep the farm operating, despite lacking electricity, water, food and heat for nearly a week.
The family took turns breaking the ice on the ponds and carrying 5-gallon buckets of water to the barn to water the livestock until power was restored. The storm left 760,000 Kentuckians without power, the largest outage in state history.
Stan and Kim strive to instill a strong work ethic in their children and emphasize the importance of education.
“Education is critically important to existing in our society, and you have to try to achieve as much of it as you can,” Stan says.
The children work alongside their family during tobacco season and have learned early on that “there (are) no free passes and everyone has to pitch in to help.”
“I think they learned the aspect of work and what a dollar means and sometimes how hard it is to make a dollar,” Stan says.
The couple’s oldest son plans to continue the family tradition of farming after college. A junior at University Heights Academy, Stephen is interested in pursuing a degree in animal science or agricultural economics.
“With the business approach to farming now and so many financial decisions that have to be made, I think it definitely benefits me to have a degree to help carry the farm on,” Stephen adds. “There is that chance that Lydia, Luke or I may not come back to the farm, but we’ve grown up on it and I do feel like we have a passion for it.”
Stephen’s interest in farming has always been with the cattle. He says his fondest memories from childhood are when he was little, heading out to the barn in the cold weather to bottle-feed the calves.
His focus on cattle has expanded into the area of genetics, something he may get from his mother, who was a chemistry major. He is slowly transitioning the farm from the established, registered Charolais breeder bulls to registered Simmental bulls and heifers.
Enhancing his breeding management program, Stephen is purchasing registered Simmental embryos from a reputable breeder and transplanting them into the commercial cows they currently own, which become the surrogates of registered Simmental calves.
Through this breeding program, Stephen is able to purchase some highly sought after bloodlines through the fertilized embryos. The teen says it is a more cost-effective method of increasing the registered herd, rather than the traditional method of purchasing registered heifers and bulls and waiting on Mother Nature.
“You would never be able to afford to actually buy the bull, but can get four to five calves out of him just by purchasing the embryos,” Stephen says.
He expects to yield up to five calves from just one purchase if all five embryos survive the embryonic transfer.
As Stephen moves the herd from commercial to registered stock, he adds, “There is a higher demand for the registered calves and a bigger market for them, the outlook for the future of our farm is to have more registered cattle here.”
Stephen has purchased a nitrogen tank for storing the embryos, and in the future, he plans to artificially inseminate the registered heifers he is currently adding to his herd and flush out the fertilized embryos to store for future breeding or to transfer into additional registered cows on the farm.
Since one cow can produce multiple embryos while on the breeding cycle, his expenses will be cut down tremendously by not having to purchase the fertilized embryos from other breeders, he says.
With the farm in good hands, Stan has headed back to Frankfort for the upcoming Kentucky General Assembly session. When asked about the political agenda for the New Year, Stan says, “There’s always issues that crop up and trouble spots that the agriculture committee has to be aware of and be on top of to try to make it productive for Kentucky farmers.”
He adds that being a farmer himself has helped him deal with the issues at hand in Frankfort.
“My district is an agriculture-based district,” he says. “Being in agriculture, I know what they’re talking about. I can relate to it and convey it to committees and votes on the senate floor.”
Stan will be up for re-election in 2016, and he says he’s inclined to run again.
“It’s an interesting perspective upon issues and problems that face citizens,” he says. “I enjoy being part of it and trying to be a voice for Western Kentucky.”
By Susan Hurt