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Hands-on management and modern equipment with GPS are key components for Gant Farms, a 6,000-acre soybean, corn, and rice operation at Merigold, Miss.“I can remember when I was growing up, it took a week or 10 days to pull 15-20 acres of corn," says Donald Gant. "Now, one of our combines can harvest that much corn in a couple of hours or less, ready to go into the bins. And, they are much gentler on grain than earlier models."
RICE HAS BEEN a mainstay crop on the 6,000-acre Gant Farms operation at Merigold, Miss., says Donald Gant. “We usually have about 1,500 acres, but only 500 this year — the economics just didn’t work out.”
Water and highly productive soils
Delta farm land “is as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world,” Don says. “With good soils and water, there are just so many things we could grow here. If we can keep managing our water resources well, who knows what we may be growing in the years ahead?
“But,” he laughs, “whatever I grow, I want to be able to harvest it with a combine — I don’t want to get involved with any labor-intensive crops.”
The Gants also raised catfish for 22 years and had over 220 acres of ponds, “mostly on yellow clay ground that held water well but wasn’t much good for crops,” Don says.
“The catfish business was really good for us in the earlier years, but in recent years it just got to the point we couldn’t make any money at it. I liked the catfish business, but I’m glad we got out when we did. All those acres will go into the Conservation Reserve Program to grow trees.
“A lot of Mississippi producers have got out of catfish, and as expensive as it is to build ponds, I don’t really see much prospect for that business to come back.”
In addition to the farming operation, for the last five years, Don has served as vice president for the northern district of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, working with members in 25 counties on the organization’s programs and policy. His duties also involve working with members of the Mississippi state legislature and the U.S. Congress on issues of importance to agriculture, business, and the general population.
“There’s a lot to do in a farming operation this size, and I’m grateful to Mike, Scott, Bobby, and our five employees for all they do to keep the farms running smoothly while I’m traveling and involved in Farm Bureau business,” Don says.
“The first two years I was in this position, I was away a lot of the time, but we had the two best crops we have ever had.” He laughs: “That showed me just how important I am to the farming operation.”
He also serves as vice chairman of U.S. Rice Producers Association, which carries out wide-ranging promotional activities for U.S. rice, and this past winter went to Nicaragua and Guatemala to help promote American rice. He serves on the Mississippi Rice Promotion Board, and in 2009 was honored Mississippi Farmer of the Year by the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo. He is an active member of Morrison Chapel Baptist Church, for 30-plus years serving as its treasurer.
“I’ve been blessed,” Don says, “to have grown up in a farming family and to have been able to remain here and be a part of this community, to have a great family life with my wife, our children, their spouses, and five grandchildren, to have had a measure of success in work that I love, and to have the opportunity to be associated with so many great people through my work in Farm Bureau.”