Know your crops, use good management, and, perhaps most of all, be open to new ideas and methods.
These are pieces of advice that a couple of farmers from Brooks County would give to anyone considering a career in farming.
Randy Dowdy and Jones Thomas have vastly different backgrounds in agriculture, but both have experienced success along with their share of challenges.
“My advice for someone going into farming is when they come into it, they’ve got to manage it and expect a lot of hard work,” says Thomas, a fourth-generation farmer who grows year round on a nearly 950-acre farm. “Farming isn’t easy. Plus, they have to advance with the technology.”
While Thomas comes from an ancestry of farmers, Dowdy decided to make a go of it as a first-generation farmer just a few years ago. He has become so skilled at it that he now offers consultation services to farmers across the country.
“Be a student of the crop and keep an open mind,” Dowdy says. “One of the biggest challenges I find through consulting with guys or speaking at seminars is convincing folks to do things different from the ways they have always done it.”
Absorbing the Know-How
If his yields from 2013 and 2014 are an indication, Dowdy is something of an expert on the subject.
After producing a couple of 400-bushel-per-acre entries in 2013 to take the championship in the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) National Corn Yield Contest, Dowdy set a world record in 2014 with 503 bushels of corn and the first certified 100 bushel-per-acre soybean yield in Georgia.
He worked in tobacco as a teenager, but that’s really all the ag experience Dowdy gained before he bought land and started farming in 2006. He had his first corn harvest two years later.
“When I first got into it,” he says, “I didn’t know anything and just tried to surround myself with smarter people than myself. I used the (Brooks County) extension service and University of Georgia, and sought information from farmers.”
Dowdy’s affinity for planting, maintaining and harvesting has led him to a role he cherishes as a corn consultant. He works with growers in 10 states. Through his approach of paying it forward, Dowdy has used his consulting services and management plans to help producers get more yield and more favorable results from their crops.
“I’m always pushing the envelope trying to learn more and looking to see if there is a better way than what we’re doing,” he says.
Management Is Key
On the land where he was raised and taught the fundamentals of farming, Thomas now grows corn silage, cotton and peanuts. He rotates the corn with grain sorghum, soybeans and rye grass.
“I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve been keeping my head above water,” says Thomas, who works the farm with his wife, Gloria, and a couple of full-time employees. “Management is the key. You’ve got to stay up on the changes that are taking place.”
Thomas, whose farm was named the 2014 Agribusiness of the Year by the Quitman-Brooks County Chamber of Commerce, sells his cotton to BCT Gin Company and his peanuts to R.L. Cunningham & Sons in Quitman. A neighboring dairy uses his corn silage, sorghum and rye grass, and Thomas has worked out a system to use wastewater from the dairy to irrigate a couple of his fields.
Both Dowdy and Thomas would add one more piece of advice for anyone wanting to begin farming.
“With farming,” Thomas says, “you have to have faith.” Dowdy concurs. “Despite all that I have done,” he says, “I know from where my blessings flow.”