Lee County Sheriff Jim H. Johnson has a very stressful job.
His wife, Jamie, the Lee County Youth Court Administrator, also has a lot of job related tension.
The Youth Courts deal with matters involving abuse and neglect of juveniles, as well as offenses committed by juveniles.
But the Johnsons have a secret — Johnson Farm.
“When I’m out there on the farm, those animals don’t expect anything from me, as the sheriff. I don’t have to talk to them on the phone, text them or reply to their messages. It’s a very fun getaway,” Jim said. “It’s a very rewarding experience. Our family enjoys it. I even like baling hay, building barns, fences .... all of it.”
The property in Shannon didn’t start out to be a farm. The northside of their property was just overgrown, something that couldn’t be fixed with a mower.
“The idea came up we would get a couple of goats just to clean up the land. I didn’t know anything about goats. Mr. Roger Hussey, who owns Tupelo Muffler Master, goes to church with us and I knew he raised goats in Mooreville,” Jim said. “He used them for milking purposes. He drinks the milk. Just from talking to him, and others, I found out there was a pretty high demand for milking goats”
In April 2020, the Johnsons purchased two male goats. One of those was named “Bill Benson.” The sheriff bought his land from the Chancery Clerk.
Jim and Jamie name all their animals after presidents, friends and family.
Jim raises two breeds of goats — Anglo-Nubian and Nigerian Dwarf.
Nubians due to their Middle-Eastern heritage, these goats can live in very hot climates and have a longer breeding season than other dairy goats. They are considered a dairy, or dual-purpose, breed. Nubians are known for a high butterfat yield in their milk, on average, 5 percent or more butterfat content.
The Nigerian Dwarf is an American breed of dwarf goat. Like the American Pygmy Goat, it derives from the West African Dwarf group of breeds of West Africa.
“I decided to start raising the two breeds. I got a female (Ruby),” Jim said. “And two males from one of our deputies, who lives in Guntown. “They’re all registered which is where you do the DNA to the Sire (male) and the doe (the Mom) to find out what characteristics they have ... are they purebred? That makes them worth more.”
Johnson Farm has three Nigerians, which are still bottle fed and not old enough to breed.
They bred the first Nubian in September 2020 and had the first birth on Valentine’s Day 2021. The farm currently has eight goats. And suddenly the farm started to grow.
“Jimmie (the Johnson’s young boy) is in school at Mooreville and he’s in Discovery. Last year Discovery hatched some Silkie chickens. Jimmie talked about those chickens all the time,” Jim said. “I knew this lady, went to school with her, who worked at Hardin’s Grocery and raised Silkie chickens. So I got Jimmie a male and a female, and he named them Freezy and Breezy.”
A Silkie is the ultimate in kids' chickens. They are cuddly, fluffy and tolerant, and love sitting in your lap.
Next the Johnsons added Banty hens for fresh eggs.
“My wife completely fell in love with chickens. She now has lavender orpingtons, silkies, bar rocks and more. I can’t name them all,” Jim said. “So now we have little white eggs to the big brown eggs. Matter of fact, I gave you a dozen of those. We have about 25 chickens.”
Last year was the Johnson’s 10th wedding anniversary and Jamie wasn’t looking for jewelry, flowers or a nice dinner. She wanted a cow.
“My wife kept looking at animals, on these internet pages, and we saw one with a mini-cow. She fell in love with it. She found one at Gulf Port,” Jim said. “She called me out on Facebook® and asked her friends to pressure me to buy her an anniversary cow.
“So it worked,” Jim said and smiled.
Next thing he knew he was driving to Gulf Port and bought his first Dexter Mini-Cow. They named the new addition Jefferson and raised him on a bottle.
“Our place became a petting zoo. Kids came over, took pictures and we loved it,” Jim said. “Next came Abigail, a little heifer from Red Bay.”
Abigail comes from The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado. The lamb’s name is Joshua who has “black spots, black feet, and sad eyes.” Joshua doesn’t have a mom or a dad and he has a crippled leg. He can only watch while the other lambs play. Joshua has only one friend, a cow named Abigail. The only time Joshua doesn’t feel sad is when Abigail is near.
Abigail is happy to be on Johnson Farm, as are all the other critters.
The farm covers about five acres right now, but has room to grow.
When asked about future additions, Jim just smiled.
Apparently Jamie is always studying the pros and cons of just about anything that loaded onto Noah’s Ark.
Right now, Peacocks may be next.