September 2013
Farm & Field

From Hayfields to Football Fields

 
  Blake Poole loves walking through a herd of cattle.

AU Student-Athlete Named “Mr. College of Agriculture”

When he was growing up on a farm in Haralson County, Ga., he loved walking through his family’s cattle herd. At the time, hauling square bales of hay was the only thing he didn’t like about farming. Nowadays, he says the hayfields were a piece of cake compared to the training involved in playing football at Auburn University.

At 24 years old, Blake Poole has been on many fields ranging from hayfields to the track field and Auburn’s football field. While getting an agricultural leadership major and political science minor at Auburn, Poole is no stranger to hard work. A typical day for him begins at 4:30 a.m. with workouts with the team. After his college classes, it is on to his 30-hour-a-week job working with Dr. Foshee, professor of vegetable production and research at Auburn. Poole spends his time at this job planting and staking tomatoes and helping with the hands-on part of research.

"Dr. Foshee has been a wonderful mentor for me," Poole said. "He’s kinda like a Dad away from home."

 
Getting up at 4:30 in the morning for Auburn football workouts makes for a long day, but Blake Poole says it is a rewarding experience.  

Poole goes to experiment stations and helps with the planting of tomatoes and a variety of vegetables for research.

"We test for herbicides, bacteria, fungicides and bugs," Poole explained. "It’s great working with Dr. Foshee and his staff, and getting paid to do it."

Poole’s strong work ethic and grateful attitude towards his professors and coaches and his friendliness towards his classmates got him the cherished title of "Mr. College of Agriculture" at Auburn this past year.

"The College of Agriculture is like one big family," Poole said.

If you walk across the Auburn campus with Poole, it doesn’t take long to realize that just about everyone on campus knows him, and he also has an uncanny ability to remember just about every name of every person he meets. I mentioned to Poole that his skill would come in handy if he ever goes into politics, and he said that is exactly what his ultimate goal is.

 
  Blake Poole enjoys farm life and wants to make the family farm strong through future legislation.

"I’d love to go back home and start a cattle farm when I graduate," Poole remarked. "Eventually I want to go into politics and be a voice for the farmers."

Poole would love to see the family farm make a comeback and farmers be able to make a good living off the land without so much government regulation.

Poole’s family has been involved with farming for generations.

"My great-granddad moved to Haralson County, Ga., where he built outhouses and farmed," Poole said. "My Dad currently bales and sells hay, and is the Haralson County Commission Chairman."

 
When he was a boy, Blake Poole didn’t enjoy hauling square bales of hay, but he loves it now and says it’s easier than the drills that prepare him for football games.  

Poole eventually wants to be an advocate for farmers to have more independence outside of government regulations and bring joy back to farming.

"Our government is getting too big," Poole said. "Nowadays, a family farm has to be so big it looks more like a commercial operation than a family farm."

Poole is the first to tell people that his political views are conservative.

"The EPA puts so many restrictions on modern day farms that it’s hard to make a living at just being a farmer like my grandfather was," Poole stated. "Between property taxes, regulations and inflation, farming is tough on anyone, especially those who are young and wanting to get started in the business."

Poole’s goal is to help change that through legislation and working for the farmers in addition to raising Santa Gertrudis cattle on his own farm.

While Poole looks forward to graduating next spring, he loves his time on the Auburn football field playing safety as number 32.

"I wouldn’t take anything for my youth when Dad and Granddad had me hauling those square bales of hay because it gave me a strong work ethic and made me tougher," Poole said. "Playing football at Auburn has been a great blessing, and the drills and tough work have taught me to be a man."

 
  Blake Poole spends every moment he can studying cattle breeds and options for raising cattle on the family farm.

Poole sometimes stands out as one of the few black men when he works at cattle sales around the area with the Bit and Bridle Club.

"I know I sometimes stand out because, percentage wise, there’s not a lot of black men entering the agricultural field," Poole remarked. "But it’s OK because God has given me a vision, and I look at people’s hearts instead of their skin color."

Currently, there are grants and low-interest loans available through the Farm Services Administration that comes under the umbrella of the USDA.

"I’m currently looking into programs offered through the USDA so I can get the cattle operation started," Poole explained. "To encourage more minorities to get into farming, organizations such as FSA can help."

Meanwhile, Poole plans to put in the hard work necessary to be successful on Auburn’s football team. His hard work has already paid off. Poole has received a full scholarship for his senior year.

"I don’t play for me, I play to honor God and be a role model for youth," Poole said.

This fall, whether you see Blake Poole in the hayfield or playing safety on Auburn’s football field, you can be sure he will be working hard. Poole loves to talk about farming and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.