The Hills run about 250 mama cows, mostly Brangus and some Angus. “We’ll put up 900 to 1,000 round hay bales each year, which will take the cows through the winter,” Jan says. Most of the cows are sold through the local sale barn.

“The livestock business is pretty good now — in fact, prices are good for all our enterprises. In my farming career, I can’t ever remember a time when prices have been high for all major crops and cows, too.

“Although the timber business took a nosedive when the housing market crashed, we recently sold a block of 30-year-old pines at a price considerably better than I had expected. On the other hand, we’ve got some big, high quality saw timber that buyers aren’t interested in at all. It’s kind of a fickle market right now.”

The recent spate of destructive tornadoes that came through the South downed quite a few trees on their property and toppling trees mangled a lot of pasture fencing. “We’ve been working pretty steadily to get the fences repaired,” Jan says. “But we were fortunate that our house or buildings escaped harm; a house under construction just down the road was badly damaged by the storms.”

Most of the Hills’ farms are no-till and minimum-till. “We bought a guidance system for one of our tractors last year,” Jan says, “and we’ve been using that accuracy to straighten up a lot of our rows and get everything properly aligned on our fields.

“It’s almost unbelievable how this technology works and what a difference it has made in our operations. Who’d have thought a few years ago that one day you’d have a tractor that would steer itself in a perfectly straight line down the field?”

The Hills have three full-time employees and some of Jan’s retired friends help out at busy times of the year. Jan’s wife, Judy, laughingly says she is “bookkeeper, cook, and errand girl.” She and Jan enjoy having Jason, his wife, Kelly, and their grandchildren, Katelyn, 7, and Tyler, 2, just down the road.

“There’s a lot of work looking after everything,” Jan says of their scattered operations. “We never run out of something to do.”

His great-grandfather, J. P. Hill, settled here in the 1800s and farmed all his life, followed by his grandfather, Leo Hill.

“My father, James, who is 85 years old, still keeps a hand in the farm,” Jan says. “He’s out in the field today with the planters.”

Jan, who represents the Houston, Miss., branch of the Mississippi Land Bank, is currently the longest-serving member of the bank’s board of directors. He is also active in the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, having served on its board and on numerous committees.

He attended Mississippi State University, but he says, “All the time I was there, I couldn’t wait to get back to the farm. It’s all I ever wanted to do; I never had the first thought of doing anything else. Jason has been the same way — all he’s ever wanted to do is farm — and it’s a joy to have him farming with me.”