Sunflower County, Miss., row crop farmers Preston and Amy Arrington were recently named state winners of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award contest. The couple competed for the honor with six other young couples from across the state, recognized for their farming innovations, leadership skills and involvement with Farm Bureau and their community.

The Arringtons will receive a pickup truck, the use of John Deere and Kubota tractors, and various cash awards.

A fourth generation farmer, Preston grows 1,100 acres of corn and soybeans and helps with his father’s 2,300-acre row crop operation near Inverness, Miss. In addition, Preston and his father own a 310,000-bushel grain storage facility, where Preston time in the fall and winter handling deliveries and ensuring grain quality.

One increasingly important responsibility is studying markets and making decisions to buy and sell.

“I am very blessed to be doing what I have a passion for, which is working with the land and providing for my family,” he said. “When I returned home from college in the winter of 1999, my dad knew that I was set on farming. He could very easily have taken me in under his operation, but he felt it pertinent for me to start out on my own.”

Preston’s father allowed him to sub-rent two of his farms. Over the next few years, Preston gained and lost some rented land, then had the opportunity to buy 200 acres of farmland adjoining his farm in 2004.

Also during that season, he and his father changed from a traditional cotton/grain operation to one of only grains. He says it was one of the best moves they could have made.

Some of the challenges the Arringtons have faced in recent years include a lack of willing and qualified employees and the new technological age. Recently, they added two GPS guidance systems to their farm equipment. Looking back, Preston says he doesn’t know how they managed without them.

“They have made our field operations even more efficient than I could have ever imagined,” he said. “These systems allow us to do 12 rows of work with 10-row equipment, saving time and fuel.”

Access to adequate, productive farmland is yet another challenge. With that in mind, the Arringtons say they take good care of the land they already own, ensuring they will be able to remain in agriculture for many years to come.

“I tell people that I plan on farming for 20, 30 or 40 more years,” Preston said. “I try directly and indirectly to do all that I can to ensure that we have a productive environment in which to work.

“I want a safe and plentiful water supply since the land that I am associated with is 91 percent furrow irrigated,” he added. “Where applicable and feasible, I utilize the EQUIP programs. Under their guidelines, my dad and I have installed numerous underground transfer lines, substantial pads and culverts, and several tailwater recovery systems with relift stations. All of this has made our farms very efficient and environmentally friendly.”

A major obstacle that the Arringtons managed to sidestep was the need for numerous semi trucks to haul grain away from the farm at harvest. Most of their corn and beans are hauled in grain carts to the bins and never see a truck until late fall or winter.

As for future plans, Preston says he’d like to improve the grain handling facility since it is a very integral part of the operation.

“Eventually, I would like to incorporate a set of scales so I can monitor what comes in and, more importantly, what goes out,” he said. “Another improvement will probably be a continuous flow dryer for corn. It might be a stretch, but someday when all these things are in place, I might consider buying grain from the public on a small scale.

“From a production standpoint, I am always trying to fine-tune the furrow irrigation process,” he said. “That entails more underground pipe, pads cut to grade, and square fields. All of this makes it more efficient and easy to manage because we normally put out about 120 quarter-mile rolls of polypipe a year.”

Preston says he makes time in his busy farming schedule to participate in Farm Bureau because he believes strongly in the organization and its work on behalf of state farmers. He and Amy are active members of their county Farm Bureau, where he serves on the board of directors. He was nominated to serve as the 2009 county vice president and will serve as county president in 2010-12. He has also served as a voting delegate to state convention.

Preston has served as a board member for the Mississippi Soybean Association and Duncan Gin. He is a past president of his local Lions Club International.

Amy is an officer of the local recreation association and a past officer with the local chamber of commerce. He and Amy are active members of their church.

The Arringtons have one daughter, Katie, 2.

For more information about the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers program, contact Greg Shows at (800) 227-8244, ext. 4277 or (601) 977-4277.