baby cow

Sam Croy bottle-feeds a calf whose mom could not produce enough milk for the red angus heifer. Croy checks all of the livestock and horses on his Crab Orchard farm twice a day and stays close to home during spring calving season.

“C ome here, Cutie Pie,” Sam Croy says, nudging a frisky red angus heifer toward the huge bottle of formula he wants to feed her.

Born March 3, the calf didn’t appear to be thriving as the days went by. Croy checked the mom and found she had no milk for the baby. Experience had taught him well. Croy already had formula on hand, knew how to mix it and took on the job of surrogate mom, feeding the new arrival twice a day.

“The first time I fed her, it took 20 minutes just to get a few ounces down her. Now, she chugs 2 quarts in a matter of minutes if she’s on top of her game,” Croy explains.

She’s not just any calf, mind you. This one is the granddaughter of the foundation cow on Croy’s Crab Orchard farm.

You might say she’s special — except every animal on Croy’s farm has a distinct identity and holds a special place in his heart.

Every animal, including the five Belgian draft horses, two Arabians and the small herd of red and black angus cattle, has a name, and Croy can tell you each one’s history, genealogy and relate at least one interesting anecdote about something it has done or how it’s connected to the whole farm family.

Becoming a farmer was one of Croy’s three major goals when he was a boy growing up in Mabscott.

“I wanted to be a fireman, a farmer and a Massey-Ferguson dealer,” he said. “The Lord has given me all three desires of my heart.”

At age 21, Croy began his first career as a fireman. He took on a second job painting houses, then owned his own construction business and now runs Croy Farm and Tractor Sales in Sophia.

In 1990, Croy and his wife Vicki, purchased the old Suddreth turkey farm in Crab Orchard. It didn’t take long to see how farm life pulls together all of the loves in Croy’s life.

A dedicated family man, he enjoyed raising his two children — Melanie Croy Stevens and Steve Croy, who is now his dad’s business partner.

“A farm is a good place to teach kids responsibility and respect for the land and for animals and all living things, really,” Croy said. “It’s also a place that can keep everybody busy and out of trouble.”

Nothing makes the Croys happier than when the five grandkids, ages 2 through 8, come over from neighboring homes to spend time romping around the 30-acre spread.

“When Vicki and I bought this place, we thought it would be neat to have a place to host people. We have a church picnic here every September, and it’s a real treat to take the kids on tractor rides and hay rides and watch people enjoying themselves out here,” he said. “She and I are in agreement about living this kind of a life. We both enjoy this lifestyle, and the kids and grandkids definitely love it.”

A full-time homemaker, Vicki takes on her share of the work.

Croy opens a shed to reveal a Massey-Ferguson diesel tractor on which Vicki has logged more than 1,500 hours of mowing time.

“I bought that for her on our 28th wedding anniversary,” Croy says with a broad smile. “You have to be really secure in your marriage to buy your wife a tractor for your wedding anniversary, but that’s what she wanted.”

People sometimes ask how many hands Croy has working the farm.

“Four,” he tells them, grinning. After they comment about how it would take at least four people to do all the chores to keep this farm in shape, Croy tells them he’s talking about four literal hands. “My wife has two hands, and I have two. That’s how we get it all done.”

They look again at the fields to be mowed, the garden that has to be plowed and tended, the barns to be cleaned, the livestock to be cared for daily and just shake their heads in disbelief.

The chores never stop, whether it’s a sunny, warm evening in early spring or a subzero morning in the dead of winter.

“Farming is somewhat restrictive. You do have to plan ahead so that everything will be taken care of like it should be,” Croy said. “I never go away during spring calving because it’s just the wrong time to be gone.”

Croy enjoys a deep satisfaction from living in a house he built himself, eating fresh vegetables grown on the farm, going to bed pleasantly tired from a long day’s work and getting up before daylight to head outside and finish some farm chores before heading to his office.

He’s particularly proud of a sign in one barn marking the Southern Soil Conservation District’s designation of the Croy Farm as the County Farm of the Year in 1999.

“I’m proud of that because it was awarded by my peers.”

Although farming is a hobby for him, Croy does make money from his hay and livestock. He uses every opportunity to encourage greater awareness of the importance of agriculture, particularly in southern West Virginia.

“Agriculture is all around us, but a lot of people don’t realize that,” Croy said. “There are a lot of hobby gardeners, but there are also a lot of people working in agriculture-related businesses. I’d like to see more people learn to appreciate farming and get more involved at least on some level.”

So, just how long does he plan to keep on farming?

“Well, I’m 58. I have customers who are in their 80s, and they’re still doing it, so I guess I’ll be farming for a long time to come.”

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