With its rolling hills, filled with rich green forests and wide expanses of farmland, Smith County is a perfect example of Tennessee’s natural beauty. In the heart of this pastoral landscape, in the little community of Pleasant Shade near Carthage, Joe and Jeff Kemp and their families have established both a thriving cattle farm and a respected construction business.
Brothers Joe and Jeff Kemp were born and raised in a house just a couple of miles down the road from the vast acreage that now makes up Kemp Farms. They have farmed together for many years, and are
partners in Kemp Brothers Construction. As Joe Kemp relates, “We started with a used backhoe we bought, added a used dozer we bought and rebuilt, and started putting in a few residential utilities. Then we began putting in services on jobs behind a contractor who was a neighbor. As we started putting in a lot of utilities for different contractors, we watched how the contractors did their work, and realized this was something we could do.”
Kemp Brothers Construction, which now has 14 employees and typically runs three crews, has been doing commercial work for about twenty years. These days, commercial work makes up at least 90% of their jobs. Joe adds, however, “We still do a little residential work, because we hate to say ‘no’ to people.
“We built up a reputation for quick and efficient work,” he continues. “People saw our three crews getting more work done than some other contractors with ten crews. We wanted to be successful, and worked at it night and day.”
Kemp Brothers Construction has installed many major water/sewer and gas installations, although Kemp reports, “We don’t see as much gas work these days; we only run one gas crew.”
The company’s jobs are typically within a 60-mile radius of the Kemps’ homes and headquarters, and are primarily in rural areas; many of their jobs have been for various utility districts in the area. One larger project was a $3.5 million job at the Hartsville Industrial Park, where Kemp Brothers Construction laid a large quantity of pipe in a fairly rocky area. “We like to do challenging jobs that others don’t want to do,” Kemp comments.
Joe Kemp and his wife Cathy, a retired teacher, live on the family property. Adjacent to their house are the farm buildings and construction shop. In addition to pasture land for the registered Angus cattle that Kemp Farms raises, the property also includes the homes of Jeff Kemp and his wife Connie, a retired registered nurse, and other family members.
Joe and Jeff can be found getting on a machine themselves from time to time to finish a job. They also own a 1970s-vintage Cat D9 dozer, which they use for land clearing. “It can still move a lot of dirt economically,” Joe comments.
From their initial purchase of a Cat D6C, Kemp Brothers’ fleet has grown to include a wide range of Cat equipment—including a D6K dozer, a 323F excavator, a 305E CR mini excavator, two 299D compact track loaders, a 289C compact track loader, a 963C track loader, a 320D excavator, and a 420E backhoe loader. This year alone, they have purchased a D5K dozer, a 325F excavator, and a 330F excavator with hammer.
“If Cat equipment wasn’t the best, we wouldn’t use it,” Joe states. “Thompson Machinery parts and service is great. When we need something, we need it right away, and Thompson delivers.”
Equipment maintenance is very important to Kemp Brothers Construction. Joe reports, “We do continuous maintenance on our machines. And we have a man come in every two weeks to wash our machines. We keep them neat and clean, which also helps our company’s image when you’re on a job.”
When asked for his thoughts on what has made Kemp Farms and Kemp Brothers Construction successful, Joe Kemp says, “Our motto is ‘do it right, even if it takes longer. And we have to be efficient in everything you do. If there’s a better way to do something, we want to find it. We are certainly capable of learning from another person.
“Basically though, we owe our success to God, for giving us the ability to manage efficiently and blessing us with a dedicated and hard-working group of employees.”