What is in this article?:
- Phil Adair and mechanic friends keep older machines humming on his Mississippi farm
- A love for all things Deere
- Helps reduce operating costs
Phil Adair grew up in a world of green — John Deere green — and he puts a lifetime of mechanic skills to use, with the help of three retired mechanic friends, to keep decades-old tractors, combines, and other equipment in top operating condition. "They're built solid, they're rugged, they do the job — and best of all, I have no equipment payments," he says.
THIS COMBINE is one of three 1960s models that Phil Adair uses in his Union County, Miss., soybean farming operation. He and three retired mechanic friends keep an array of older machinery in tip-top running condition.
Helps reduce operating costs
“There’s a great deal of satisfaction — and a lot of money saved — in being able to repair these great old machines, keep them running, and use them in my farming operation.”
It was his grandfather, Van Goodwin, who launched Adair into farming.
“He had a small farm, which he rented out to the owner of an adjacent farm. When the neighbor put his farm into the CRP, he no longer wanted to farm my grandfather’s place. So, my grandfather gave it to me. ‘You can farm it, or do whatever you want with it,’ he told me.
“It was only 42 acres, and after I finished at MSU in 1986, I grew cotton for four or five years, and some soybeans. But after the worm disaster in the 1990s, I got out of cotton for good.”
“After I got my degree, I was looking for a job, and James Criddle, who was district conservationist at the time, encouraged me to apply for a job with the Soil Conservation Service. I was accepted and have had a very rewarding career with the organization, helping people to employ conservation measures on their farms.
“After Dad died, as other land in the area came up for rent, I began gradually expanding the farming operation. But I’ve never thought that I had to have the latest, greatest equipment. I don’t like debt, and if I could buy older equipment for not much money and keep it in good running condition, that suited me fine.”
This year, Adair says, “I’m planting Asgrow AG5606 and AG5332 beans. I generally stick with Group V varieties for mid- to late May planting. Trying to plant earlier in this area has been hit or miss for me, so I’d rather wait until I know I can get a good stand.
“I planted Liberty Link varieties last year, and will alternate between those and Roundup Ready varieties in order to vary chemistries and try to avoid weed resistance. On a new farm I picked up last year, it appeared there were some resistant pigweeds, but I was able to control them. I really like to stay on top of them — if you let them get 10 inches tall, you’re in real trouble.”
With all the rain this spring, Adair was running a couple of weeks late with planting. (The first week in June, he still had about 250 acres to go, and was stopped again by rain.)
Harvest is usually toward the end of October, or early November. He markets his beans through Cotton Plant Gin and Elevator.
“I didn’t get the absolute top price for my beans last year,” he says. “I booked some when they hit $13.50, and I was happy with that. I figured it was better to take a good price while I could than to take a chance on them going down.”
“Insect problems are infrequent,” Adair says, “occasionally some stinkbugs.” “Where I no-till, I’ll add an insecticide with my burndown application as a preventive for the small grasshoppers that can sometimes come along.” He usually applies his burndown in late March/early April.
He soil tests all his land and the Cotton Plant Elevator applies any needed nutrients with their spreader trucks. “But I’m in pretty good shape now with fertility,” he says.
His soils are “a little bit of everything, from good sandy loam to Hell Creek gumbo.” Fields range in size from 75 acres down to 1.5 acres. Yields, all dryland, average about 37 bushels.
Adair, who will be eligible for retirement from SCS in another six years or so, says, “Maybe then I’ll consider expanding my farming operation, or doing more equipment trading.”
“But my philosophy of farming has been: Work only as much as you can do well. I could probably have bumped my operation to 1,500 acres, but I wouldn’t have been able to give it the attention it needed. I’d rather work fewer acres and do a good job, with decent yields, than to have a lot more acres and not be able to look after things.”