As things turned out, Jay didn’t go back to Pennsylvania after selling his dairy.

“My father-in-law had a heart attack, and Shirlene and I felt we needed to stay here. I worked in town at Southern Feed & Seed for three years and in 2001 this farm came up for sale.

“I wasn’t planning to farm it, had no equipment; I just bought it as an investment. I leased it out for three years, and when the lease expired, my son-in-law, Andrew Shirk, was wanting to farm, so he and I started farming together.

“Later, when poultry started expanding into this area, Andrew and I built six poultry houses each and separated our operations. Andrew also bought my share of the cattle we had when we were farming together. My other son-in-law, Kevin Shirk, who also farms nearby, built eight poultry houses. We all help each other and share equipment.

“Although I have no sons, I’ve been blessed that two of my daughters married men who wanted to be farmers and that we can all work closely together.”

Today, Jay farms 1,150 acres of corn and soybeans and has six poultry houses, producing 6 million pounds of broilers per year.

“I normally plan for a 50/50 corn/soybean rotation,” he says, “but this year I went a bit heavier on corn, 700 acres. With September corn trading near $7, it was basically a price decision. We have a mixture of soils, mostly heavy clay, and I put the corn on the best land.

“I plant several different varieties in order to spread risk. This year, I have 10 varieties, mostly Pioneer and Dekalb, but also some Terral and Dyna-Gro, all Roundup Ready.

I plant 111- to 119-day corn, which usually will put us harvesting the first week in August.

“I generally follow a minimum-till program. After harvest, I’ll incorporate stalks and row up so I can burn down in the spring and plant early on beds. I’ll sometimes plant beans on bedded ground, but they are mostly planted flat.

“The fall of 2009 was so wet, we cut deep ruts getting beans out, so we had to do conventional tillage on those fields in the spring of 2010. That was an especially wet spring, so we ended up planting a lot of corn flat on our bottom land. It sat in wet, soggy ground and then the weather turned off dry, so it didn’t develop a good root system. It was the kind of year you want to forget.”

Jay soil tests all his land every other year. Thus far, he says, litter from the poultry houses has met all his fertilizer needs except for liquid nitrogen sidedress for corn. “With nitrogen prices as they are, this is a real money saver.” Lime is added as indicated by the soil tests.

“On my better land, I’ve had some really good corn yields,” he says. “Year-in, year-out I’ll average 143 to 145 bushels, and for dryland corn, I’m happy with that.”