When Donald Gant was a boy growing up in Bolivar County, Miss., his father, Hubert, farmed 80 rented acres — not a lot in the Mississippi Delta, where farms were counted in hundreds of acres, or even thousands.
“Dad lost that farm when the owner died and the land was no longer rented,” Don recalls. “But a neighbor, W.D. Griffin, had 360 acres that he offered to let Dad farm, and I worked with him during my high school years and in my college years at Delta State University.”
Even 360 acres wasn’t a big farming operation, he says, but that early-day exposure to farming firmly set in his mind the direction he wanted for his life.
“After I earned my accounting degree, I worked a while for some local industries, but I quickly learned that I didn’t want to spend my days sitting behind a desk. I also worked some for Jimmy Sanders at his seed company — he was a great guy to work for, and it has been a pleasure knowing him over the years.
“But, farming was what I loved, so I came back and started working with Dad, and he and I had a great relationship in our years together. He kept a close watch on finances, and was a good businessman — in all the years he farmed, he never had a credit card.”
His father died earlier this year, but their steady program of growth had built Gant Farms to its present 6,000 acres.
“After I came back to the farm, we began farming some of Johnny Howarth’s land,” Don says, “and he worked it out so we could buy a 1,000-acre place near Gunnison, Miss. As people in the area got out of farming and land became available, we acquired more farms. We’ve never gone looking for acres, but as land has come up for sale or rent, we’ve continued expanding. Of the 6,000 acres we farm now, we own or are buying 4,200 acres.
“If you drew a circle around our farms, it probably would be 50 miles around the perimeter,” Don says, “but it’s less than 10 miles from my house to any of our farms. The biggest is 1,800 acres and the rest are in the 500 to 600-acre range. We also acquired a farm in Panola County that’s in trees, mostly pines and oaks.”
He laughs: “I said in the early days I’d never pay more than $800 an acre for land. Later, I upped that to $1,000. We recently paid $3,000 per acre for a place, but it included grain bins and other improvements. And I know of other land sales in the area in the $4,000 range.
“There’s not a lot of land coming up for sale these days, but if we see an opportunity to acquire more, we’ll certainly consider it.”