July 2008
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Linda and Chuck Agar are proud of their high-yield pecan orchard.

From Germany With Determination

This Successful Alabama Farmer Was Once A Struggling Youngster Trying To Find Food In His Native War Ravaged Germany
 
by Ben Norman

 

   Chuck Agar points to a topworked tree.
When Chuck Agar was running from a shotgun wielding farmer in a potato field in war torn Germany, his only thoughts were of getting away with the two potatoes he had just "liberated" before a load of birdshot caught up with him.

Agar said he didn’t quite outrun the birdshot, but he did manage to hang on to his potatoes. "My cousin and I were so hungry we would steal potatoes from a field and get down in a gully to roast them on a stick so the flames couldn’t be seen. When we were really hungry, we wouldn’t wait for it to cook throughout. As soon as about an inch of the outer part of the potato was done, we would eat it until we got to the uncooked center, then cook it some more. Man, I know what real hunger is, I still have a few birdshot in my rear to prove it," said Agar.

Agar’s plight began to improve slightly in 1949 when his father got a job as a policeman and could at least buy food for his children. In the 1950s, a U.S. Army nurse, Major Bernice Agar, stationed in Germany heard about Agar and invited him to visit her for a week.

"I hadn’t been with her five days when she said ‘I’ll make you a deal––I’ll adopt you and get you an education in the United States.’ It took me all of ten seconds to take her up on it," remembered Agar.

 
Linda Agar feeds her "girls."  

Major Agar enrolled her newly-adopted son in high school at Augsburg American High School in Augsburg, Germany, where she was stationed. In 1959 at age 17, Agar moved with his adopted mother to New Mexico. At New Mexico Military Institute, they determined he only lacked one course finishing high school.

"I basically finished high school and started to college at the same time. It was here I met the love of my life, Linda Borom. We got married in 1962. I got a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1964 and Linda got a degree in Home Economics in 1965. I later went on to earn a doctorate in Electrical Engineering," said Agar.

Linda’s family brought Agar to Alabama to visit the family farm near Ansley in Pike County during Christmas of 1960.

"That was the first time I’d seen this farm. I immediately fell in love it. Linda and I decided that Christmas one day we were coming back to her family farm," said Agar.

Agar had an interesting and exciting life as an engineer. One of his first jobs was at White Sands Missile Range. Later he was employed in various fields of electronic warfare. In 1984, he opened his own consulting company and taught at New Mexico State University. While Agar had several high profile jobs, he and Linda just couldn’t get the family farm in Pike County out of their mind. In 1975, they bit the bullet and bought Linda’s family farm. Chuck and Linda soon got interested in pecans and began planting a state-of-the-art pecan orchard.

Linda said even though she had spent time on the farm she had never lived on a farm. "This farm had been in my family since 1848, so I definitely had a mental connection to it."

Linda and Chuck began reading about pecan orchards and were soon grafting and topworking trees to obtain scab-resistant trees.

"We now have several varieties of trees. Linda and I believe a multiculture of several varieties is the way to go," said Agar.

"We have a rigid spray program we go by to combat scab, shuck worms, aphids, case borers and other insects. Linda helps me keep up with the spraying schedules. There is never time to rest when you have a pecan orchard. Hurricane Opal did a lot of damage and we are still recovering from it. There is a lot of grafting and topworking to keep the orchard at peak production," explained Agar.

The Agars also have a first-class Angus cattle operation.

"I had always wanted a cattle ranch, so we started with a few head," said Agar.

Linda is the backbone of their cattle operation.

"We sell registered replacement bulls and heifers to ranchers in the area. Linda can handle the cows better than I. She keeps immaculate records on breeding dates, weaning dates, weights, etc. Buyers often call me with questions on our cattle-I discreetly have to put them on hold so I can get the facts from Linda. To tell you the truth, she runs the place and I’m her hired-hand," laughed Agar.

One would think at age 66 a cattle and pecan operation would be enough for the average farm couple, but not Agar.

"I recently bought a breeder hen operation near Goshen. I just thought all that chicken litter would be ideal to put on the pecan orchard and pasture. I got in this bind–– if it wasn’t for Tony Woods and Adam Kilcrease with Wayne Farms I wouldn’t have made it. These guys have really given me a lot of helpful advice and have been very patience with me as a greenhorn egg producer," said Agar.

Many are amazed at Agar’s mechanical abilities on the farm. He is an accomplished welder, mechanic, plumber and electrician.

"Hey, here on the farm I might be the design engineer, but I have to quickly put on a laborer’s hat and do the dirty work, too. I can’t complain though; I’m in my element when I’m building or working on a piece of equipment," remarked Agar.

Chuck and Linda raised two sons and a daughter. All three graduated from Auburn University. Karl and Alan are graduate engineers, but, like his father, Karl has answered the call of his first-love: ranching. He operates a working cattle ranch in New Mexico. Lori is an attorney.

Agar is very complementary when it comes to the employees at Goshen Farmers Co-op. "Mike Thomas is one of my very good friends. If he doesn’t have an answer to an agricultural question, give him a few minutes and he will be on the phone finding an answer. I buy virtually all my agricultural supplies at Goshen Farmers Co-op," said Agar.

Agar may have a PhD, and has earned the right to be called doctor, but a visit to the farm will find him in well-worn blue jeans and an old cowboy hat that could stand an oil change. Chances are one would find him on a tractor or in his welding shop.

"I realize what a wonderful country this is." Agar rubbed his posterior and laughed as he joked about the birdshot still imbedded in his rear from his potato-stealing days.

Agar said he has had several titles during his working days including Dr., defense consultant, engineer, professor and several others.

"I’ve worn a lot of hats, so to speak, but the title that makes my head swell and my chest stick out the most is when I’m referred to as an Alabama farmer," stated Agar.

Ben Norman is a freelance writer from Highland Home.