It’s rare that, 25 or 30 years later, I cross paths with farmers whose operations I wrote about in my early Farm Press days. Most were then middle-aged and are now long retired; some, alas, have died.
It was happenstance, at a meeting of the Delta Council Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee, that I sat down next to Jaby Denton, farmer/ginner in Quitman County, Miss., who I had written about in 1985, when he was just getting under way as a young farmer, at a time when farms were going under in great numbers.
I thought it would be interesting to update his story, to see how he’d fared in the intervening years. You can read that article by clicking on the link at the left.
But, when I dug back through our bound volumes and found the original article, I was impressed anew with the sound, level-headed approach he took to farming in an era when it was really tough for long-time farmers to stay afloat, let alone newcomers. Here are some excerpts:
—On his recordkeeping: “I don’t have millions of details, but I have all the information I need to know what’s going on, so I can monitor not only my production progress but my financial progress. At any time during the year, I know how much money I have in each crop to that point. I can look at my current costs and compare them to previous years. I have charts that show how each crop relates to overall sales, acreage, etc.”
—On bill paying: “All bills are paid on time. My policy has been, from day one, to pay bills before taking a dime for myself. If there’s a discount for cash, I always take it. Because my suppliers know they’re going to get paid on time, I have an excellent relationship with them. I watch the price of everything — each nut, bolt, gallon of chemical. I plan purchases and production needs in advance, which may result in better prices and helps avoid ‘emergency’ decisions that may be unnecessarily costly. I write every check, and when I do, I stop and ask: Was this expenditure necessary. Was it wise? Could I have done this differently at a lower cost?”
—On credit: “Because I have a good record of paying my bills, I have no problem getting the credit I need. But I use credit sparingly, and I only buy equipment when I’m in a position that I know I can pay for it.”
—On ideas: “I seek out information from any source that will help me to survive economically. I look for ideas from farmers who are surviving these hard times, but I also look for the reasons behind the failures of those who didn’t survive. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and each year I become more aware of what my limits are. I have a diehard determination not to be a loser.”
Nearly 30 years later, still sound business principles…