What is in this article?:
- Mississippi farmer Billy Goss is a contented man, grateful for the blessings agriculture has afforded him.
Billy Goss, Goss Farms, Lyon, Miss.: “There was never a time I can remember that I didn’t know I was going to be a farmer. Even as a little boy, I only wanted to farm.”
Never turn back the clock
Goss has been entirely on his own for over 20 years, bolstered by a reputation as a humble man bound to his word. As Goss replays his life in farming, the stories spill out and when he speaks, Goss’ wisdom matches his years: “Keep your reputation and your word. If you’ll do those two things you’ll make it fine in this world. Don’t lie and make false statements because here’s how it will end up: You won’t be able to remember what you said. I’ve been treated kindly all my life by people. In fact, Mr. Heaton in particular was mighty good to me. I just don’t have a complaint.”
In 2013 Goss worked 800 acres of soybeans and will probably drop his planted acreage in 2014. A bad hip hinders Goss and the wear of farm work has slowed him, but “technology and transportation” compensate for his age, and Goss rolls through his fields on a four-wheeler: “I love technology and think it’s the greatest thing to ever happen to agriculture. Listen, on my first five acres, I chopped weeds with a hoe and as a boy I plowed with mules. I’ve always loved any of the new technology and I always want to try it. I always wanted to be the first guy around to try something new.”
(For a photo gallery of Goss, see A true American farmer)
As Goss begins to talk about modern farming technology, he becomes increasingly animated, almost agitated as he describes the changes in his lifetime. Plant bugs, planting dates, weed control, efficiency, and yields — Goss has seen them all change and doesn’t want to set the clock back. “One year, plant bugs ate us up and devoured the crop. We ended up with cotton between 6 and 7 feet tall. Now I’m talking about high cotton that produced half a bale per acre — half a bale. That was the worst hit I ever remember.
“Another year we had a freeze and the bolls were squirting juice. Now all of this is changed. We’ve got all this technology to control plant bugs and weeds. Technology just keeps getting the crops planted earlier. Listen, I’ve knocked ice off of gates in December to get pickers in the fields. If it got too late, we’d try and get in while the ground was froze up so the vehicles wouldn’t sink.”