John Grant has an easy smile, the size-you-up-instantly insight of a seasoned horse trader, a prodigious store of details about crops he’s made, the varied work he’s done, places he’s been, deals he’s cemented, people he knows — and stories about all of them.

“I’ve done a lot of things over the years,” says Grant, who with his son, Kenneth, farms 1,800 acres on 20-plus farms scattered across three counties in north central Mississippi (John Grant).

“I’ve been fortunate that a lot of them were successful.

“But I’ve known the other side of it, too. There’s broke — when you’ve got no money — and there’s below broke — when you’ve got no money and you still owe $284,000. That’s the situation I was in 1984, when a lot of farmers were going under. I was able to make a deal with the Production Credit Association and the banks to pay it off over time.

“I went back to Texas, where I’d done custom cotton harvesting in previous years. I had a good year there, and kept doing custom harvesting there and all over the Mississippi Delta, and paid it all back.”

Grant’s personal farming story started in 1959, when he returned home from the Army and started growing cotton on the 160-acre farm belonging to his father.

“I was farming and driving a truck,” he says, “and one day the newly-elected county sheriff phoned out of the blue and asked if I’d come to work for him as a deputy. He’d learned that I’d had a top security clearance in the military.

“So, I served as deputy sheriff for Montgomery County, 1964-67, working everything from murders, robberies, and domestic violence to aerial reconnaissance looking for whiskey stills and marijuana patches. I’d fallen in love with flying when a pilot friend took me up in the empty hopper of his spray plane, and earned my license before I got out of the Army. I’ve continued to fly all these years.”

After he ended his law enforcement stint, Grant bought a one-row Farmall Super M cotton harvester and moved to Texas to do custom harvesting. That went well and he eventually had 13 pickers and strippers, some owned, some leased, harvesting thousands of acres a year in the Southwest and the Mississippi Delta. He met his wife, Diana, in Texas, and when he wasn’t harvesting cotton, worked with her father in his produce business.

“I’ve picked cotton somewhere every year,” he says. “Cotton helped me pay off my debts, and it’s been good to me over the years.

“Almost everyone else in this area has quit farming — a lot of them have come to me to farm their land. But farming is getting so expensive, you can put a lot of money at risk in a hurry. Right now, I’m kinda glad I don’t have any more acres.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com