His equipment is “100 percent John Deere — we bleed green,” he says. “We have 8000 series tractors, 16-row and 32-row planters, a 4730 sprayer with a 100-foot boom, and two S670 combines. We have GPS and auto-steer on the planter, tractors, and sprayer, and variable rate controls on the planter.” He has four full-time employees to help with the operation.

“We do all the equipment maintenance we can, particularly on the older equipment, but on the newer equipment, with more technology, we may need a service technician’s help in diagnosing problems.”

He has 125,000 bushels of on-farm storage, which is normally used only for corn. Most of it is delivered in January to Pilgrim’s Pride at Tuscumbia, Ala., for poultry feed. “We have our own trucking company, with four trucks, and do all our hauling ourselves,” he says.

Soil sampling is done every year, and samples are processed by A&L Labs. “Fertilizer applications are based on test results,” Kevin says. “Our preference is for poultry litter; it’s really good for helping to build up our soils. Application rate depends on analysis; the average is 2 tons per acre, but we have applied as much as 3 tons per acre on some corn ground.

“Price determines whether we use litter or commercial fertilizer. The price of poultry litter has been constantly going up. When we factor in a 400-mile round trip to haul it and add in fuel, truck costs, and manpower on top of the $20 a ton price for the litter, it can quickly hit $50 a ton. Last year we used all commercial fertilizer.”

He has had no problems with resistant weeds. “We’ve had a program over the years of rotating chemistries, particularly on soybeans, and a couple of years we’ve planted conventional soybean varieties with an even different weed control regime — and we believe this has helped,” Kevin says.

“Insects are generally not a problem, occasionally some stink bugs and loopers. With Bt and stacked trait technology, we just don’t have any significant insect problems.”

To be a farmer nowadays, Kevin says, “You’ve got to have a diverse skills set — negotiating for the best prices, monitoring the weather, and staying conversant with technology, ever-changing chemistries and varieties, and on and on. Farming has come a long way from my father’s and grandfather’s day.

“Dad farmed here for 50 years, and before that Simpsons were farming here going back to the mid-1800s era of mules and hand labor. We’re still farming some of the same land, and over the years the operation has gradually expanded, going from the original 150-200 acres to the 3,500 acres we have now — about 30 percent is owned, the rest rented.

“We have been over 4,000 acres, but ownership has changed for some of the land we were renting and the heirs decided to put the land to other use. Over the last 20 years or so, there has been quite a bit of mini-farm development in the area that has attracted buyers mostly from the Memphis area. Land seldom becomes available in this area for farming, unless it comes out of CRP.