People and places of Anderson County

Donnie and Laura Gray (photo:Joe Bonomo )
It’s a small farm with a big impact.

Gray Family Farm is just outside of town in Heiskell. Donnie and Laura Gray moved out there just eight years ago, and have been raising cattle and selling them for beef since 2007.

“Both of my grandparents were farmers, and Laura’s dad and grandparents were farmers,” said Donnie.

Donnie is a full-time electrician at Y12 and considers farming his hobby.

Laura, however, disagrees.

“I don’t think he realizes how much business he does,” she said. “This is more than a hobby.”

She talked about how proud she is of how hard he works on the farm after a long day at work. Laura works hard on it too, managing the business side of things.

Laura and Donnie met at a horse sale when Laura was around 16 years old. Donnie was involved with horses back then and was “into rodeos and stuff like that,” he said.

He sold his horses when they started raising cattle and never looked back.

Between the two of them, they feed a whole lot of local families. Clinch River Brewing Company in Norris uses their meat, and the restaurant at the Museum of Appalachia did for a while, too.

Business really started to pick up around five or six years ago when they started selling meat by the package.

“Not everybody has huge freezers,” Laura said.

Donnie said that they have become more mindful of what they feed their own children over the years.

They have customers that come to them with health issues, and doctors recommended they purchase meat products without hormones or additives.

“We don’t want additives in our food and know so many others feel the same way,” Laura said. “I want to raise healthy kiddos and see others do the same.”

Right now, the Grays only sell pork and beef. No chicken. They also help a neighbor sell honey.

They have a small garden that feeds their family as well, and spend a lot of time canning.

“For a small-time farm, we stay busy!” said Donnie.

LaFollette resident Joe Bonomo is a prolific, successful artist, and is passionate about portraiture. He spent many hours in Anderson County recently photographing people in town and learning a little about them, and then going back home and creating their portraits.

To find out more about Bonomo’s art, visit, on Facebook at, and on Instagram at @bonomoart.

Crystal Huskey is a writer for multiple outlets in East Tennessee.

This series, however, is only available in The Courier News.