Will and Lee are the fifth generation to farm here. The first Skinner came to the area from Virginia in 1815 and grew cotton and raised some cows.

Bill’s father, the late W. E. Skinner, Jr., continued the farming operation after returning from military service (he’d fibbed about his age and enlisted at 17).

“The farm was in pretty rough shape here after Dad came back,” Bill says. “His father was in poor health and hadn’t been able to keep up the place. Dad ran cows for years, and when I came back from school in 1973, he and I started breaking up pastures and putting in row crops. We had about 900 acres, and as people got out of farming, we gradually added to our holdings.

“Will began farming full-time with me in 2002, after finishing diesel school. Dad died in 2008 and that year Lee started farming, after finishing at Mississippi State University in real estate and mortgage finance.”

In addition to the farming operations, Bill and his wife, Tracy, have a trucking business, which they started in 1977. “We haul grain and fertilizer the year round,” Bill says. “We own three trucks and have owner/operator leases for others. Tracy does all the bookwork, and she also has a clothing store.”

Lee’s wife, Chelsie, keeps books for his operation and is also near completing a master’s degree in nursing and will become a family nurse practitioner in December. “We do all the repairs and maintenance on our equipment. We don’t lack for things to keep us busy,” Bill says.

The Skinners are particularly complimentary of their area suppliers, crop scouts, and Farm Services Agency personnel, and local banks. 

“Our long-time cotton scouts are David and Kyle Skinner (no kin) at Starkville, Miss., and we value their advice,” says Bill. “We buy our chemicals through Jimmy Sanders and CPS (Crop Production Services); both are a pleasure to work with.

“The FSA staff has been really helpful over the years with operating loans and financing, particularly when Will and Lee came back to start farming. As expensive as land and equipment are nowadays, young folks just can’t get into farming without help. And the Bank First Financial Services and Citizens National Bank folks have been great to work with us.

“My father and my grandfather helped me when I started farming, and I’ve helped my sons get established. But these financial institutions have been a big help in making it possible for Will and Lee to become farmers in their own right.”