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“This used to be ‘way out in the country,” says David Boyd, who farms with his son Matthew near Jackson, Miss., the state's capitol. "It seems every year the city gets closer. With land going for $5,000 an acre or more, development is farming's biggest competitor."
MATTHEW AND DAVID BOYD grow corn and soybeans on their farms near Mississippi’s capitol city, Jackson.
Boyd family members have been farming for decades in the Sandhill community in central Mississippi, up Hwy. 25 about 20 miles northeast of the state capitol, Jackson.
“Jackson used to be farther away,” laughs David Boyd. “It seems every year it gets closer — new subdivisions, businesses, schools, churches. And just to the west of us is the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a major recreational and residential area. Development is farming’s biggest competitor. With land going for $5,000 an acre or more, expansion’s pretty much out of question for us.”
On this last day of March, while waiting for ground to dry enough so he and son Matthew can finish planting corn, he stands in a grove of newly-leafing oak trees near the house where he grew up and gazes out across a 150-acre field that abuts the Hwy. 25/Sandhill Road interchange — a steady stream of cars and trucks moving on the highway.
“This used to be ‘way out in the country,” he says. “My father farmed here, and I grew up farming. Matthew was riding on the cotton picker with me when he was just two or three, and working on it when he was 13 or 14, and anything that needed doing, he learned to do it.”
Matthew smiles: “As long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do was farm — and that’s all I’ve ever done. I came home from community college and went right to farming. I haven’t regretted it.”
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During the 1980s and early 1990s, David had worked in the crop insurance business, but after Matthew came back to the farm they formed a partnership in 1990.
As was the case in much of agriculture in that period, farming had been a struggle in the 1980s, David says. “But we had a couple of good crop years in the early ‘90s that got us above water, followed by not-so-good crops in 1995 and 1997. But we’ve managed to hang on, and the last few years have been good in terms of yield and prices.
“We grew cotton for 37 years, but it got to the point that we were just losing too much money on it. From 1995 to 1997, we fought bollworms, drought, and 50-cent prices. Yields were down, costs were up, and in 1998 we just got out.
“I grew up in a cotton culture — my father grew it — and there’s just something satisfying about growing a good cotton crop. I think about cotton every now and then, but [he laughs] I quickly get over it!”