“If you can’t yield, you can’t stay in this business,” Mike Hook said. “The keys for me are fertility, good water management, tillage and weed control.”

Casey points out that marketing is also a big part of his farming operation. “I watch the markets all the time. If you don’t market well, you can have a bumper crop and not make any more money than someone making half that.”

Helping Casey plow through the learning curve includes his consultants, Eddie and Danny Dunigan, Branon Thiesse, Extension agent for Craighead County, local growers Danny Qualls and Greg Womack, and Casey’s parents, Mike and Karen.

“My dad and mom have supported me all through the years, even those times when I thought I might not want to farm. When I’m busy, and I need help keeping my books, my mom will help out.”

Thiesse says Casey isn’t afraid to ask questions or challenge farming practices. “He wants to know why we do things a certain way. He asks me some hard questions sometimes.”

When asked what he liked most about a farming career, Casey said, “It gives you some satisfaction. I like to look out across it and say it was mine.”

On the downside of farming, Casey said, “Just being straddled over a barb wire fence, when you have all your money tied up in the crop and you don’t know whether you’re going to make it or not. There are huge risks in farming and sometimes those risks are not seen. But there can be big rewards. So it’s a double edge sword.”

The most important thing for Casey is that he truly believes he’s found his calling. “Farming is fun,” Casey said. “It doesn’t bother me to wake up every morning. I don’t dread going to my job every day. I like what I do, and it seems like farming is on my mind 24 hours a day and in my dreams.

“I’ve got the fire and I want to make it. I know there have been farmers who have faded out, and I don’t want that. I want to be up there with the elite.”

Casey’s father has mixed emotions about his son’s farming career. “I’m proud of him, but I’m real guarded. I know it’s a hard market for him to try and get into and try to accumulate things.

“I’m pushing 60, so I’m not going to be in this game for the long run. I know he has the drive and will succeed if he has the opportunity. It’s really surprised me. He learns in a hurry.”