Walt says he had been interested in peanuts for several years, primarily for the diversification/rotation benefits. “But the contract price being offered was also an incentive,” he says.

“We’ve enjoyed growing the crop this year,” Josh says, “and we like that peanuts can get by on less water and seem to take stress better than corn and soybeans. They’re looking good now, and I’m anxious to dig them and see how they turn out.”

They’re growing 300 acres of the GA06 variety under contract with Birdsong Peanuts. They were planted April 23.

They planted 700 acres of wheat this past winter as a cover crop on some of their more erodible land in the hills. “We harvested only about 100 acres of it for seed,” Josh says, “and then we sprayed the rest and left it in the field as a moisture conservation measure. It worked really well, and we’ll probably continue to do this.

“We’re trying to get back to no-till on much of our land, but in order to get everything lined up for RTK, we’re doing subsoiling and then getting rows straight.

“Our tractors are all Case IH, except one; we have 275s, 255s, and 245s. Our big sprayer is a Case IH SPX3185. We try to make as many applications as we can with the sprayer to hold the line on aerial application costs.

“Some of our tractors have RTK, our sprayer has a guidance system, and our combine has a yield monitor. We love the guidance systems on the tractors; we can even run at night if we need to.

“With auto-steer, I can get so much more done, with no gaps. Everything is so precise — it’s a great tool. With the sprayer, for example, I didn’t realize how many times I was stopping to count rows and realign the machine. This is so much more efficient.

 “When we’re rowing up, we don’t get exhausted from trying to keep a straight line in the field. It really takes a lot of pressure off when you’re driving one of these machines all day; I’m much less fatigued at the end of the day. And [he smiles] with four young children at home, I need to conserve as much energy as I can.”

He and wife, Mary Beth, who is in the agricultural lending department at Regions Bank, are parents of Cody, 7, Mary Elise, 4, and two-year-old twins, Billy Ross IV and Skylar.

And, says Josh, one of his most useful tools is his HTC Android smart phone. “I love it; it’s such a versatile device. In addition to all the phone/Internet/text functions, I can monitor the pivots, I have all our field maps on it, I can watch satellite and radar weather and know exactly where weather systems are, I keep chemical rates and other data on it, I can make photos and even videos, and of course, get real time markets information. It’s an absolutely great tool. I couldn’t get along without it.”

He says they hired two new employees this year, and “they’ve been a great addition to the operation. Both had previous farming experience, and we’re glad to have them. We have four full-time employees.”

Josh’s grandfather, Billy Ross James, and his father, Billy, Jr., both deceased, were farmers in the Gore Springs, Miss. area.

“But in the 1980s, when agriculture was going through such rough times, Dad got out of farming, bought a store, and put his land in pine trees.