For someone with such a keen eye on the past, Tommy Young is perfectly happy to adopt new technologies, to change with the times.

“I treat every crop as though it is a ‘garden’ crop,” says the Newport, Arkansas, producer. “I try my best to soil sample all over. Then, we apply whatever the soil test shows we need. We also use a tremendous amount of nitrogen on all the crops and fungicides.”

When harvesting corn, unlike most folks who harvest with a conventional header, “we have a header that shreds stalks into six-inch-long pieces. That allows the wheat an easier path to work through. It also makes it easier for the residue to break down – we incorporate that into the soil. We don’t burn residue, ever.”

The operation is extremely details-oriented, something that the new technologies allow “We watch it all: from fertility to precise irrigation scheduling and everything else. We have rain gauges at every field that are checked after every shower – we don’t guess if the pivots need to be turned on.”

Every tractor working the family’s land is GPS-guided, every sprayer is controlled by GPS and rates are precision-applied. Everything is documented in computer programs and downloaded into computers at the office.

“We can look at every field and tell what chemical, what fertilizer, what seed was planted, what lot the seed came from and all the rest.”

History

It’s December and the Newport area is glazed with ice. Although he isn’t a hunter, ducks are flying and Young says his nephews are “getting excited to hit the blinds. We’ve got some water now, so the hunters will be out.”

Sitting behind his desk at headquarters, Young says the farming he does now began with the sweat of his parents -- Eva and James Norman Young, Sr. -- who began farming the foothills around Charlotte, Ark., after getting married in 1939.

“Dad served three years in the war and then they moved to Jackson County and began farming a piece of property around here.

“My two older brothers -- James, Jr., and Ronald -- then farmed for years with my father, who retired in 1982, around here. They bought land and expanded the operation. I came on board after college. After that, we began selling center-pivot irrigation and hopper bottom grain trailers, put in a farm and home supply store. We also continued to expand acreage.”

In the early 1980s, the brothers began growing corn – one of the first operations in the area to do so. Corn has been a staple for the Youngs ever since.

“Today, you could consider us to be corn farmers. Fifteen years ago, we were rice farmers.”

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Following his brothers’ retirement in 2009, Young’s nephews -- Ronald Blake and James, III -- came in to the operation, Generation Three Partnership, as equal partners.

“We own 4,000 acres and farm 7,000. We plant about 2,500 acres of corn annually, about 2,500 acres of wheat, about 4,000 acres of soybeans with the balance in rice.”