Jamie Cromley — back then known by her maiden name, Jamie Samuels — grew up in Marietta, Georgia, the youngest of her parents’ three daughters. Following high school, she enrolled at the University of Georgia, where within five years she would become a Double Dawg, earning both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in public health. In those days, Jamie assumed she’d return to the Atlanta area after college to be closer to family as she began her career.
And then, a plot twist: She met David Cromley.
“One of David’s friends, (fellow) Bulloch County native Ryan Hynko, was getting married to a girl in my Bible study (group), and we met at their wedding,” Jamie said. “We began dating shortly after that, and it didn’t take long to see our faith and values overlapped.”
David, the youngest of four children of Chap and Barbara Cromley, was raised in Brooklet, the sixth generation in a family of Nellwood-area farmers. A year older than Jamie, David graduated from UGA in 2009 with a degree in animal science and began an internship at the state Capitol with the Georgia General Assembly’s Rural Caucus, comprised of agricultural allies from both the House and Senate who represent policy interests of the state’s rural communities.
While the experience offered him valuable firsthand knowledge about the legislative process and its effect on farmers, David soon found that fast-paced life in Atlanta wasn’t for him, and he felt a strong pull to return home to work the farm where he grew up.
That decision naturally required some major adjustments in all aspects of his life — including his relationship with Jamie. She recalls an evening when they were still dating, after David had moved back to Brooklet, when the couple had made plans for a night out in Savannah.
“I arrived at his house … (and) was surprised to find that he wasn’t at home, so I gave him a call,” Jamie said. “He was down the lane at the cow pen. A cow had trouble giving birth and needed assistance.
“David asked me to drive a farm truck to meet him (and offer) an extra hand, so the city girl from Atlanta jumped in the truck, dressed up — high heels and all.”
That night ended with takeout from a local restaurant, and Jamie soon realized that the future she had once imagined was changing, too.
“David had so many of the qualities I was looking for in a husband, and it was very clear to me he was the one,” she said. “He proposed to me in the backyard garden between the tomatoes and the potatoes.”
RETURN TO BROOKLET
The two were married in January 2014 and began making their home at the farm in Brooklet, where David worked with his dad, Chap, and other members of the Cromley family in an operation primarily focused on raising beef cattle and growing peanuts and cotton. Soon after, Jamie joined the faculty at Georgia Southern University, where she teaches in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health.
Though far removed from her metropolitan roots, Jamie wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the farming way of life. It was also the profession of her grandfather, who worked the land in southwest Georgia, where Jamie’s mom was raised. Still, while the transition took some getting used to — how neighbors tend to stop by unannounced, how word spreads quickly in a small town, how there are far fewer stoplights and much less traffic — it wasn’t long before life on the farm had stolen her heart.
In the years since then, that farm life has taught her countless lessons. One of those is the importance of remaining flexible, always prepared for a complete change of plans in the face of unexpected situations.
“You never know what can happen on the farm,” she said. “Every day is an adventure. There have been times when a cow gets out at the most inconvenient time, or a tractor breaks down and it takes a little longer to fix. We adjust accordingly and take care of what needs to be done.”
In fact, farmers have come to expect the unexpected. As an occupation heavily dependent on many factors completely out of their control — weather conditions, fluctuating market prices, legislative decisions, global disruptions — their work is not easy and requires daily risk and personal sacrifice, both from farmers themselves and their families. This reality is a heavy burden to bear, associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression, according to the American Farm Bureau, whose Farm State of Mind campaign was created to promote mental health wellness in farmers and ranchers across the country.
“It is not for the faint of heart,” Jamie said. “From the outside looking in, many people only see those picture-perfect moments — cue the Christmas card cotton field pictures. (They) don’t always see the hard times, but they come — and they can hit hard.
“As a farmer’s wife, I get to see behind the scenes. We experience challenges quite often — some small, and some that could threaten our ability to farm in the coming year,” she continued. “Through it all, David and I have to put our faith in God.”
That reliance on the Lord allows the couple to place their trust fully in his providence and perfect timing, a sentiment at the very heart of Kairos Farms, the operation now co-owned by David and his father. “Kairos” is a Greek term meaning the “right time” or “opportune moment.”
“I don’t think it is a coincidence many of the parables in the Bible use agriculture as the main subject for teaching,” Jamie said. “Every day we see God’s provision and faithfulness. … He meets us where we are at and speaks to us in little moments, like the sunset, a new calf being born, and a harvest that we know we had very little to do with.”
During the busiest months of the year, in seasons of planting and harvesting, David spends nearly every waking moment in the fields. It’s often where Jamie will take their children, daughter Libby, 6, and son Luke, 2, to spend time as a family, where they get a front-row view of the hard work and responsibility their dad’s job requires.
“These days are long, but we all light up when we get to spend a little time with each other,” Jamie said. “It may look different than other families — we’ve eaten supper on the tractor, and I have graded student papers on the cotton picker — but the reward, reaping what was sewn, does make it all worth it.”
ADVOCATES FOR AGRICULTURE
While the couple can’t yet know whether their own children will want to continue in the family’s farming legacy, it’s important to both Jamie and David that a career in agriculture remains an option for them, and their entire generation, in the years to come.
“As farmers, we have a responsibility to take care of the land, and we take it very seriously,” Jamie said. “We are just borrowing this land from future generations. Yes, farming is a business, but we also have a responsibility to provide a safe and affordable food and fiber supply to the world.
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE utilizes various strategies focused on building and maintaining healthy soil, managing water wisely, minimizing pollution, and promoting biodiversity. These include:
- COVER CROPS are planted in the offseason, when soils have traditionally been left bare. This can help prevent soil erosion and replenish nutrients, as well as limit weed growth, which reduces the need for herbicides.
- VARIABLE RATE TECHNOLOGY allows for more precise control of the amount of inputs such as seed, fertilizer and chemicals applied by farm machinery. This enables farmers to make more efficient applications in the field, which can lower production costs and reduce environmental impacts.
“We are continually seeking out best farming practices, using variable rate technology (and) cover crops, staying up to date on the latest research and guidance, (and) adhering to guidelines so that agriculture is sustainable.”
As part of this commitment, Jamie and David have a long history of involvement with Farm Bureau, at both the local and state level. A grassroots organization that serves as an advocate for farmers and landowners, Farm Bureau also works to educate the public about the importance of farms and their vital role in providing a safe, affordable and sustainable food supply.
“Farm Bureau is the ‘Voice of Agriculture,’” said Terry Manuel, agency manager of the Bulloch County Farm Bureau office. “Agriculture and ag-related businesses play a huge role in our local economy, not only in the commodities that are produced and sold, but also in dozens of locally owned businesses that furnish equipment, fertilizer and employment.
“We use the phrase ‘from Bulloch County to the Capitol’ in efforts to pass legislation that protects our way of life,” he said, noting that Georgia Farm Bureau is the agricultural industry’s largest political lobbying group in the state.
“Because almost every county in the state has a Farm Bureau, issues that begin locally can move up through the policy development process and ultimately become state and national policy,” Jamie said. “It’s critically important for farmers to have this voice.”
In 2012, David took on his first leadership role with the organization, serving as chairman of the Bulloch County Farm Bureau Young Farmer committee. Soon after, he and Jamie teamed up as Young Farmer chairs for District 7, representing Bulloch and 15 surrounding counties, and in 2015, the couple served in that role at the statewide level, which also afforded David the opportunity to sit on the Georgia Farm Bureau board of directors. Today, David is president of Bulloch County Farm Bureau, and the Cromleys are actively involved in visiting schools and hosting field trips and farm tours, all in an effort to help others make the connection between farms and their food.
It’s a message Jamie has also taken to the airwaves as one of a handful of real-life Georgia Farm Bureau members featured in the organization’s current advertising campaign. In her commercial, which airs on digital platforms and TV stations across the state, she draws from her unique perspective as both a farmer’s wife and public health professional to speak about the importance of farms as providers of safe, sustainable food.
Watch Jamie's ad here.
While she says the experience is one she won’t soon forget, the thing she’s most proud of when it comes to her involvement with Georgia Farm Bureau is the impact it’s had locally.
“Helping our friends and neighbors understand what we do in the fields is always fun, and inviting them to visit our farm is always eye-opening,” she said. “We are a family farm. When people realize that we live here, too, and are raising our families here, it helps them see that we wouldn’t do anything that would bring harm to us or our children.”