The farmers sitting around the table talked about the market purchase price for crops, the increasing cost of fertilizer and fuel, and the sagging economy. In spite of their comments, not a single person at the table would trade his occupation for another. Farming is a way of life for these men — men who represent varying ages along the spectrum of life. The youngest of these men, Kyle Ross, is a newcomer to farming. His path into farming has been a growing and rewarding experience for him and his family.
In Kyle’s first year of farming in 2007, he planted only corn. His first year dry land corn crop yielded 83 bushels to the acre. During the 2008 planting season, he expanded his row crops and planted wheat, corn and soybeans. His soybeans were double-cropped behind the wheat and corn. The ground was strip-tilled and the beans were planted on 38" rows with a John Deere vacuum planter.
"Good thing I planted less corn this year," shared Kyle. "During the dry weeks in May and most of June, the corn didn’t get any rain. All of it died. I baled it and planted soybeans behind it."
All appearances indicate his decision was a wise one. The beans caught some late summer showers and are faring well on their own. In August, the young plants battled three-cornered alfalfa hoppers but proper intervention and spraying reduced the potential for further disaster. Kyle plans to harvest the soybeans in mid to late-October with his recently purchased John Deere 4400 combine.
Kyle exclaimed, "Without the corn, having only the beans, I guess you could say I’m going for broke this year!"
The fall 2008 harvest-season is Kyle’s second year of farming on his own. Growing up in the country, his dad raised cows but no row crops. However, not a novice to row crop farming, Kyle has planted, sprayed and harvested hundreds, if not thousands, of acres over the past four years. He has worked with Russell and Lee County row crop farmers, helping in all aspects of the industry. Kyle’s experience with these farmers is invaluable, particularly now that he is operating on his own.
"The farmers I worked with in the past have been good to me," said Kyle. "They have all been willing to provide advice, loan me equipment and help me get started in my new endeavor."
Kyle gives a special nod of thanks to B & T Farms, John T. Ingram and Sons Farm, and Holt Farms.
Three years ago, he felt the timing was right for him to sow the seeds of his own operation and see what he could grow. At the time, he and Joy, his wife, had been married about two years. They lived in a beautiful brick home in suburbia.
"When Kyle told me he wanted to sell our home, move to the country and start farming, I wasn’t real sure what to think," said Joy. "He was considering going back to college and thought farming would be a good fit, something he could do in-between classes. He was passionate about it. Kyle has always loved the outdoors; farming seemed to be the natural thing for him to do."
The young couple sold their home and moved to the country. Not long after their move, their family increased in size. Daughter Blair turns two in October and loves living in the country, spending time outdoors and checking the crops with her daddy. And farming has proved to be a good fit with their family. Kyle is able to attend classes and maneuver his farming schedule around classes and labs. He is working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Ag Economics. In addition to farming and going back to college, he also works part-time as a technician for the Russell County Soil and Water Conservation District. He meets even more farmers through this work experience and gains a greater understanding of the farming way of life.
"I feel fortunate to have a valuable resource of farming friends," said Kyle. "And with local stores like Taleecon Farmers Co-op, there is always someone to go to when I have a question."
Local Quality Co-op stores are a great source of knowledge for questions you may have about farming. Store employees can help connect you with other farmers who have dealt with similar issues or questions. And they can provide you with the products and services you need on your own farm. At Taleecon Farmers Co-op in Notasulga, Kyle purchases seeds, chemicals and fertilizers.
Joy helps with farm chores when she can; she also works full time, teaching sixth grade special needs students at Phenix City Intermediate School. She shares agriculture with her students on a continuous basis. In 2004, she installed raised beds at the school so her students could grow vegetables and learn more about the importance of farming in Alabama, as well as in the United States. At home or at school, farming seems to always be on her mind!
"I am really proud of Kyle for deciding to step out and try to make a go of farming on his own," shared Joy. "The future of our country’s food supply depends on knowing the source of our food and having a sustainable method for growing it. We need more young farmers!"
For this young family in Russell County, farming is a way of life. Living on family property miles from town, Kyle, Joy and Blair find the farming lifestyle offers them the flexibility and benefits not found in many other occupations. The Ross family may be fairly new to farming on their own but farming is not new to them. Going out on their own has been a leap-of-faith; it has been a growing experience both enjoyable and enriching. And much like the older, more experienced farmers, Kyle agreed farming is an occupation he would not trade for anything.
Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.