The disposition to farm isn't based on genetics, but after eight straight generations have managed the same family farm near Edwards, Miss., one begins to wonder if farming truly isn't in the family's blood.
Scott Cannada of Edwards is a family partner in a diversified row crop, cattle and timber operation. He and his wife, Lesley, were recently honored as district achievement winners by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.
When Scott graduated from college and returned home to farm, the 26-year-old became the eighth generation to farm the land.
“In 1827 my great, great, great, great grandfather started Cannada Farms after acquiring it from his uncle. Around 1910, my great grandfather acquired the property where our headquarters are now located. Much of our land has never been owned outside of our family. My grandfather greatly enlarged Cannada Farms after returning from WWII,” said Scott.
“When my grandfather retired in 1998, he gave me 230 head of beef cattle, two tractors and some hay equipment. I was still in college but planning to return to the farm in May of 2000.”
Scott merged his cattle and equipment into a three-way partnership with his parents, Russell and Jacqueline Cannada. Since forming that partnership, they've bought another 750 acres of land.
“We now manage 5,000 acres of family-owned land and lease an additional 1,500 acres. We raise 425 acres of cotton, 335 acres of corn, 230 acres of soybeans, 440 head of beef cattle and 450 acres of timber.
Scott said as Jackson and the metropolitan area continues to grow, land values are rising and long-term leases are almost a thing of the past. Landowners want to be able to sell land quickly.
“This makes it difficult to justify any long-term improvements, which is why we've been buying more land rather than leasing,” said Scott. “We have about 300 acres of hardwood timber and 150 acres of CRP timber. The CRP land gives us an annual income off marginal producing land while providing wildlife habitat and controlling erosion. We select cut the hardwood timber to provide supplemental income in years when farm income is low.
“The cows have kept us going the past few years. That diversity is very important. We haven't had good yields and decent prices since 1998 until this year, and the cows kept us going in those years,” said Scott.
Their row crop acreage is not irrigated, and even though they didn't have significant rainfall the month of July, their 2003 cotton yield was about 880 pounds an acre; soybeans averaged 47 bushels an acre.
“We don't have the kind of dirt to push our yields much higher,” said Scott. “We just try to do everything efficiently.”
That efficiency includes planting transgenic varieties, keeping equipment purchases to a minimum and being hands-on farmers to keep labor costs down.
“I drive the picker, haul the grain and do probably half the spraying. My dad still drives the combine,” said Scott. “A few years ago the farmer rode around in the truck and told the help what to do. That isn't happening here. We have one man that's been with us for more than 25 years and one other full-time person.
“I worked on the farm all of my life. I never had a summer job anywhere else. My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. I just had no interest in that. I'm a graduate of Mississippi State University, but I immediately came home to the farm.”
Scott said his grandfather put him on a horse when we was four years old and began teaching him to work cattle. Now he puts in average work days of 10 to 12 hours a day.
“He has a passion for this,” said Lesley. “He was born to this. You don't see many people who love what they do, but he does. He absolutely loves being a farmer.”
Eva Ann Dorris is a contributing writer for the Mississippi Farm Bureau. She can be reached at 662-419-9176 or [email protected].