Working as a soil conservation technician at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cleveland office, it was Ledford’s job to make sure farmers were keeping up with the requirements set for them by the USDA.
He worked with farmers on everything from doing the smelly task of making sure cow manure was disposed of properly to helping them apply for grants so they had all the resources they needed to do ther jobs well.
Local farmers who were in attendance at a recent retirement party in Ledford’s honor said he didn’t just tell them what needed to be fixed, but he also often helped them complete their work on the farm.
Wayne Coates, a former employee of the office who visited for the celebration, said Ledford had been known to go the extra mile for farmers by helping them complete the work they needed to have done to stay compliant with USDA rules during his free time.
“He’s been a blessing to these folks down here,” Coates said. “These farmers are really going to miss him.”
Chase Hicks, the district conservationist at the USDA office, said he agreed that Ledford would be missed by local farmers and added that the staff would also be missing him.
“I think Bradley County and Polk County have really benefitted from having Jim in this office,” Hicks said. “He would be a great example of a true public servant.”
Ledford said it was important for the members of the community to rally around farming the way he did because it was in the community’s best interest.
“Working with these folks helps produce an excellent food source,” he said.
He added that many people remain unaware that a diverse selection of food is grown or raised in the two counties the USDA office covers. In addition to products like milk and meat from cows, and eggs and meat from chickens, many crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat and grain have been produced locally. He said he also knows of some farms that grow specialty crops like all-organic produce or tobacco.
In addition, he said Bradley County has grown to be the largest producer of poultry as compared to all the other counties in Tennessee.
Ledford was someone who went from growing up on a farm near Decatur to helping farmers in his work and his daily life. Though his retirement will only include “a little bit of leisure farming,” he said he would continue to show his support for the local farming community.