A century since ground was first broken — 100 harvests and four generations later — brothers Wayne and J.D. Dulaney run a tight operation at Gen 4 Farms, Clarksdale, Miss. “My family came in as loggers in 1913 clearing the land and started farming as they cleared it,” says J.D.
“We had 2,400 acres of soybeans, all AgVenture varieties, and the cool summer really helped the crop. There’s definitely a difference in planting dates. We had a four-day planting period in April and those beans are phenomenal — 80 and 90 bushel yields. Then we planted a month later, maybe May 26, and those beans are still cutting well at about 65 bushels per acre,” says Wayne.
Wayne handles the agronomics and marketing on 3,800 acres, while J.D. runs the fieldwork and maintenance across the farm. “Wayne is actually a better mechanic than I am. I was always on the equipment doing the fieldwork and Wayne was the one doing all the fixing and keeping us going. Daddy needed someone to help with the maintenance side, and I was a lot better operator than Wayne — that’s kind of how it got split … I harvest, plant, run the sprayer and take care of day-to-day operations on the farm.”
J.D. thrives in his labor-intensive role: “This is the only place I’ve ever lived and the only place I’ve ever worked. It’s not been all peaches and cream — but it’s been exciting. I tell everybody I’ve got working for me, I don’t ask them to do anything I won’t do myself, haven’t done myself, or can’t do myself. I get a lot of respect by being that way from the guys. When it’s 100 degrees out here, hell, I’m the first one to walk the poly-lines or fix them. The nastier the job, the faster I get on it. It doesn’t bother me, the job has to get done.”
Ironically, despite soybean harvest, rice is by far J.D.’s crop of choice. J.D., 37, grew up walking rice levees and pulling aluminum irrigation pipe. Gen 4 has 900 acres of rice in 2013 and J.D. expects 1,400 acres in 2014. “A lot of people are going to be looking at rice this coming year. There are people I know that are going to be growing rice that haven’t grown rice in 15 years.”
• What is one of the biggest problems for J.D. in day-to-day operations?
Fuel costs. Gen 4 burns anywhere from seven to nine transport loads of fuel each year. With each irrigation well using approximately 100 gallons of diesel per day, the costs are always mounting.
• Hog problems at Gen 4?
Not consistently; coyotes are worse for the Dulaneys. “We don’t have any resident hogs; they move in and move out. Coyotes give us more of a problem than hogs. They bite holes in the polypipe and it doesn’t matter if it’s inflated or not.”
J.D. normally kills about 10 coyotes each year; and has already shot and killed three from the combine this harvest season. “I don’t think they are after water. I think they are looking for something to play with because we didn’t have as big a problem when the polypipe was blue. They like the white pipe more than anything else. Back when we were landforming we used to flag the fields and put a flag down every 100 feet so we’d have a point to survey from. We’d put down pink and white flags; the white flags would disappear two to three weeks before the pink ones. We’d find the flag 30 or 40 feet over with bite holes in it.”
• What’s the makeup of a good farmer?
“Someone who pays attention to detail and who is not scared to get out there and get with it. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go; the social aspect goes on the sideline. That’s where I see a lot of people getting in trouble and trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’ You’ve got to stay with it and work; plain and simple.”
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