As one longtime member of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation observed, just 10 years ago, the organization's Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement winners use to have maybe 25 head of cattle or farm a couple of hundred acres of grain.
Today's winners operate much more complex and larger operations and with a positive attitude as the key are bringing new faces and new ideas into Mississippi agriculture.
Farm Bureau's 2002 Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement winners are no exception.
Barrett and Susan Fisackerly of Lowndes County, Miss., were named the winners at the closing banquet of the MFBF's 81st annual meeting in Jackson, Miss., Jan. 7-9.
Barrett and Susan operate a cattle, forage and row-crop operation in Lowndes County, Miss. The operation consists of 145 brood cows, 475 stockers, 245 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat on a planned rotation program, and diversification into other enterprises such as pre-conditioning of cattle, harvesting and sale of wheat straw and hay and custom bush-hogging.
Barrett considers himself a cattleman first, but recognizes that diversification is the insurance he must have to face the year-in and year-out challenges of farming.
“The importance of these operations is to provide additional income for my farming and family's expenses,” he explains. “This helps me in disastrous years and allows me to make efficient use of my equipment by farming more acres.”
Barrett rents about 1,150 acres of land annually on a cash or share rent basis, but is finding it more difficult to compete with urban sprawl. “I try to implement multi-year leases to obtain a projected time of stability, but still over the last five years I've lost 150 acres to families relocating to and building homes in the country.”
Barrett and Susan want to continue in farming as a profession and a way of life. Barrett says their strategy for doing that is to continue expanding their operation while finding ways to decrease debt. Some of the avenues he's investigating are the possibility of practicing some wildlife management programs, which could lead to off-season revenue. He also wants to expand his custom farming services to increase cash flow.
And, just as any seasoned farmer can tell you, he knows no matter how well you plan, Mother Nature can always offer up challenges.
“In 2002 we encountered no rain and only cut 60 bushels of corn (per acre) and 20 bushels of soybeans (per acre), and we had to buy hay and feed for our cattle,” he says. “Since then, I keep a surplus of hay and feedstuff and maintain the assortment of other businesses to provide additional income.
“Management can only be considered successful if land, labor and equipment, as well as capital, are used to their maximum efficiency,” says Barrett.
As the state winners, Barrett and Susan received a new truck, the use of a tractor from John Deere and Kubota, cash prizes toward the purchase of a home computer and agricultural chemicals and an all-expense-paid trip to Tampa to represent Mississippi in the National Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement program.
The competition for MFBF's Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Winner consisted of seven applicants from each of Farm Bureau's state districts. Every young farmer shares similar characteristics: they are diversified and have alternative enterprises, which will keep cash flowing in times of adverse weather and/or markets.
Mark and Diane Chenault of Bolivar County, Miss., raise a variety of row crops and are able through intensive management to self-finance their entire operation.
Jonathan and Tracie Callicut of Union County, Miss., operate a cattle and row crop operation.
Kyle and Paige Rhodes of Rankin County, Miss., are poultry growers and run a cattle operation, which is enhanced by their use of poultry litter as fertilizer on their grazing and hay fields.
Doug and Missy Rogers of Covington County, Miss., operate the state's largest Charolais operation, which includes registered animals and a retained ownership program for other producers.
Bobby and Wendy Smith of Neshoba County, Miss., also operate a poultry operation and run cattle.
Stacy and Karyn Craft of Jones County, Miss., have poultry, cattle and a pine plantation.
For more information on Farm Bureau's annual meeting or on the Young Farmer and Rancher program, click on www.MSFB.com.
Eva Ann Dorris is a freelance journalist from Pontotoc, Miss. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org