It is rare today that you meet a family that has four generations involved in their family ranch. The days of people finding means to live off their land has become harder and harder to locate. That is unless you know the Smith Family. The Smith’s live on Moore Road on their family beef cattle ranch and have lived there for 35 years. They are the true meaning of perseverance as they have always found a way to make a living off their land even when the economy has changed, when cattle prices dropped and when it seemed everyone around was throwing in the towel and selling off their land to developers. The Smith’s have done the exact opposite, as their family has grown they have become more involved, each and every one of them.
In 2009 the Smith family, Ted and Donna, along with Ted’s late father L.M. and his mom Carlene, and Ted & Donna’s children Colt (Suzanne) and Dakota (Jessica) decided it was time to change the family land focus after utilizing their land for a cow calf operation and a St Augustine Floratam sod production farm for nearly 25 years. The economy and the reduced number of new houses being built hurt their ability to make a living straight off their land. So the family sat down and asked themselves what they could do to keep the family ranch going.
They researched ideas on how to be able to open their property up and let others who aren’t blessed to be able to live on a ranch see the ranch life first hand. Donna and Ted came up with the idea of having a crop maze and allowing visitors to see agriculture in its entirety. Agritourism is an industry that our area lacks, people often pass by large ranches and farms and dream about what the life of a farmer/rancher really is. Agritourism allows the visitors to “tour” the property and see things they may have never witnessed before, cattle living off the land, crops growing, tractors working, and nature, the whole agricultural life.
The Smith Family established CornFusion Crop Maze & Fall Festival and began growing their first crop in 2010. Over the years they have overcome many obstacles, from a drought to years where they have had standing water from rain, but they have not given up.
Instead, the family has continued to grow, expand and offer more of the farm life to more and more visitors.
Donna says her favorite part of the event is “seeing families get together, some come out just to buy a pumpkin and never walk through the maze, but it is about being together as a family.” Good ole fashioned family activities are not a thing of the past, at the Smith’s they are available the whole month of October.
After doing the maze for several years, the family enjoyed seeing people tour their ranch so much that they decided to expand and remodel the existing hay barn and turn it into an event venue. This facility is now available to be booked for weddings, parties, gatherings, reunions and corporate events. The barn is beautifully decorated and closed on three sides allowing a breathtaking view of the ranch, the cattle, the Longhorn cattle, Watusi cattle (an exotic breed the Smith’s raise) along with their buffalo, Ms. Ruby.
While sitting in the barn you are likely to see wildlife visiting one of the nearby bay heads. Wildlife in the flatwoods of North Lakeland often include wild turkey and hogs and whitetail deer.
The barn is equipped with large fans to cool you off on a warm summer day along with an array of tables and benches that they furnish for use. They have a horse drawn carriage on the premises that is able to be used for events. The barn is just another way to diversify and utilize the property for agritourism year around.
This year the Smith Family is excited to reach the milestone of five years of having a maze right here in Polk County. They are grateful for the support of their sponsors and visitors.
Donna said, “it is thanks to the sponsors who make it possible to open the maze up to charities such as The Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa.” CornFusion crop maze hosts this group along with several others, where everything is free to the children and their parents. The Smith family feels this is just one way they can do their part and make memories.
The Smith’s continue to raise 250 head of cattle for their cow-calf operation, they also continue to sell sod. Each year the family finds more ways to diversify the ranch to offer more of their lifestyle to the community and visitors alike.
Ted says at the Smith Family Ranch, “Agriculture comes first and everything else comes second.”
This is a motto Ted likely got from his late father L.M. Smith who is known to have been influential in Polk County’s dairy production industry for many years. Ted and his brothers grew up working for the family dairy.
He recalls helping before and after school, a value he passed on to his own sons. Colt and Dakota are very proud to work on the family ranch, they also look forward to the day they can pass the values down to the next generation of Smith children, their own.
This fall as the weather cools down and you are trying to figure out what to do with your family, I encourage you to pay the Smith’s a visit.