Jamie Jordan doesn’t necessarily think of himself as a farmer, but rather a "caretaker of the land," and one visit to his farm reveals why this description best fits the work he does there.
Some people are born to be farmers, and perhaps the same could be said for Jordan. He’s a fifth-generation farmer who’s raising his son to continue the family tradition. Since the late 1800s, his family has been in the cotton-ginning business. Jordan recalled his childhood accompanying his father and uncle as they plowed with mules, drove wagons and even hand-picked cotton. Before long, Jordan was expected to help, and he spent each fall working in the gin and each summer in the fields during high school and college.
Despite the hard work, Jordan was committed to the farm; so much so, his education would sometimes have to take backseat to his farm responsibilities. As a result, Jordan completed his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Berry College in Rome, GA, in seven years since he spent half of each year working at the family farm.
Upon college graduation, Jordan returned to the family farm and worked alongside his father and uncle. But Jordan admitted he experienced some growing pains during those years. It was important for him to learn the business aspects of farming, but when he had the opportunity to farm on his own, he took it. He first began farming, or caring for, Horton Bend Farms, located just north of Rome for six years; then Kershaw Farm in Etowah County, AL, for two years; before farming Clemons Farm in Coosa, GA, for six years. Then in 1991, he was given the opportunity to purchase his very own dream farm, Riverbend Farm.
For 20 years, Jordan has been caring for his 1,260-acre farm which rests in a bend of the Coosa River (hence the name) between Centre, AL, and Rome, GA. Since the farm is nearly completely surrounded by the river, it creates the perfect backdrop for Jordan’s crops of soybeans, corn, cotton and wheat. Jordan said making Riverbend Farm the "most beautiful, most productive, most efficient farm in the Southeast" is his calling and his lifetime commitment.
He realizes the role stewardship and conservation play in achieving his goal and properly caring for the land, and others are certainly taking notice. Last year, Riverbend Farm was selected as a finalist for the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for Agriculture from Georgia. Jordan and his farm were also recognized by Georgia Forestry Commission as a Certified Forest Steward, and won the 2001 Merit Award presented by the Georgia Chapter Soil and Water Conservation Society as well as Atlanta Farmer’s Club’s Farmer of the Year Award.
"These awards are about taking care of the land and making sure, when your life’s through, you’ve left it in better shape for the next generation than it was when you got it," Jordan said.
To achieve the goal of making Riverbend Farm as beautiful, productive and efficient as possible, and to meet his conservation aspirations, Jordan has worked hard caring for his dream farm.
"My dream is to make the best better by improving Riverbend Farm in all aspects," he said. "Primarily by building organic material; improving fertility, aesthetics, roads and drainage; caring for wildlife and timber; and leveling, draining and irrigating the land."
Jordan said his farm couldn’t be efficient with one tractor and one man, so luckily he’s found great help in his family. In 1986, Jordan married Kelly Proctor and over the years she’s proven to be a valuable asset. Jordan said she has been a wonderful homemaker and mother to their 21-year-old son, Jesse.
But Kelly is well-rounded as she’s always willing to help out on the farm. In fact, Foxfire magazine once did an article on the Jordans and the title of the piece was "Jamie Falls for His First Farmhand."
Jesse is a junior majoring in Accounting, and he’s had a bit of a headstart on his course of study. When Jesse was about seven, the family noticed a demand for sweet corn; Jordan proposed Jesse plant Silver Queen Sweet Corn as his farm project. Jesse planted one-half acre or so, and what they couldn’t sell in the community, they would take to market. From age 6 to 14, Jesse managed his own sweet corn operation. At age 14, he began farming approximately 15 acres of cotton, corn and/or soybeans. This experience gave him a connection to the land and taught him the importance of a hard day’s work and the value of a dollar.
"I’ll never forget," Jordan laughed, "When the county agent in Centre saw [Jesse] had a sweet corn patch, his statement was, ‘Well, I see you’re going to make sure Jesse doesn’t become a farmer.’ I’ve told [Jesse] there are better ways to make a living, but he does have a love of the land and he’s got special places on the farm he goes to get away."
Following in the family’s footsteps has been a tradition in the Jordan family, so perhaps Jesse will follow suit. Jordan has personally followed in his father’s footsteps in more ways than just farming, and one way has taken him to new heights…literally.
"My dad was a flight instructor in World War II, so I’d always grown up around flying," Jordan said. "The first time I remember riding in a plane was probably when I was three years old and Dad used to dust cotton with a Cub. That was back when it was actually dust and not liquid. I told him I’d always wanted to learn to fly and he said, ‘We’ll get you a J-3 Cub sometime and, if you can learn to fly it, you can learn to fly anything.’"
So when Jordan was 24 years old, he purchased a plane and learned to fly. Not only has he used it over the years to spray his family’s farm, he enjoys flying simply for the pleasure of it. The Jordan family now owns three planes, a 1941 Piper J-3 Cub, a 1975 Piper Pawnee (which is a spray plane) and a 1956 Cessna 182.
Because of Jordan’s experience with flying, Riverbend Farm is the perfect location for Georgia and Alabama’s Cooperative Extension Systems, Commissioner John McMillan, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary Black, to host aerial fly-in clinics for agricultural flights which serve to re-certify commercial applicators and inspect planes. Pilots receive commercial pesticide credit for attending the clinic and, this year, Jordan hosted a fly-in May 25.
One person who has enjoyed an occasional flight with Jordan is his long-time friend Larry Leslie, general manager of Cherokee Farmers Co-op.
Jordan serves on the board of directors at the Co-op and he’s been doing business with Larry and the Co-op for 30 years.
"Jamie and I have been friends for a long time and he’s always been a loyal supporter; he buys most all of his products [at the Co-op]," Leslie said. "He’s really a joy to work with. I couldn’t ask for a better customer or director."
Leslie has made many recommendations to Jordan in regard to Riverbend Farm over their 30-year friendship, but one Jordan is quick to highlight is Leslie’s idea to fence in the side of the property not surrounded by water and raise cattle.
Jordan who has a mutual admiration said, "Larry came from a farm, so he knows what it’s like. He’s very efficient in how he runs the store. I’m sure it’s hard to find somebody who will run a business like it’s theirs, but there’s no doubt that’s the way [Larry] runs Cherokee Farmers Co-op. I’ve told him, when he gets ready to retire, he needs to let me know because I’m going to retire, too."
Perhaps when the time comes for the gentlemen to retire, Jordan will take Leslie up on that offer to raise cattle at Riverbend Farm and the long-time friends can work together as caretakers of the land.
Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.