This past Monday I traveled to Pageland, Jefferson and Lancaster to visit farmers.
On my way back, I had to stop by a small white church about halfway between McBee and Jefferson (the other side of nowhere) named Buford Baptist Church. I know they aren’t there, but I had to stand and reminisce at my sweet Mama’s and Daddy’s grave.
Since today is Father’s Day, and even though they have been gone for a long time, I thought about all that they had to go through to feed and care for all nine of us kids.
Again, at supper the other night, I enjoyed a tomato and a cucumber sandwich, and it took me back to Daddy’s farm. Even though it was the only way he could feed all nine of us kids, my dad loved farming.
Each time I work in or visit a vegetable farm, I can picture my dad with his straw hat pulled down over his eyes and sitting on that old Farmall tractor. His farm might have only been about 10 acres, but when I was small, it seemed to have been half the world.
Dad loved to farm and always had a gleam in his eyes this time of year, harvest time. One of my fondest memories was to sit on the porch shucking the silver queen sweet corn we had picked that morning.
The screening kept the flies away, and the shade was cooler than the field. Each time I ran in and out of the door, he would holler at me, “Keep the door shut. Don’t let out my pet flies.”
We always shared a little of the raw corn with our old mama cat, who loved it as much as we did. Before going inside to shell butterbeans in front of the black-and-white TV, we would cut a juicy watermelon to keep us going. We would share some of the watermelon with our old mutt, Browny, who loved it as much as we did. Who, by the way, gave his life to protect all of us. He was killed, just outside my bedroom window, by a bear.
Today I am the one who loves farming; however, many things have changed since Dad’s 10-acre farm. First, I have given up on the small garden that is beside my house, and I have immersed myself into a 20-acre research area/farm at the Pee Dee Research & Education Center (PDREC), and I have helped hundreds of other folks grow somewhere around 30,000 acres of produce.
As a man literally “Out-Standing in a Field,” I get to disguise my love for farming as research, my Clemson Extension work and a way to help folks produce top-quality crops.
Next, Dad had to plant on bottom land and count on rainfall, but at the PDREC and on most vegetable farms, irrigation improves production in our heat. Since most vegetables are from 80 percent to 90 percent water, irrigation is many times the key to consistent production.
At my research area at the PDREC, I have both trickle and overhead irrigation, so in my research I can simulate the actual conditions on farms. With trickle, you don’t wet the leaves of the crop; therefore, you don’t encourage disease. You can water anytime, day or night, and you put exactly the amount of water the plants need.
Also, you can add fertilizer through the irrigation water. This is called fertigation. It allows you to give the perfect environment for plant growth and crop yield.
With overhead irrigation, you can still add fertilizer through the irrigation water, but you do wet the leaves. Overhead (central pivot) irrigation systems are sometimes easier for farmers with large acreage.
Next, with no irrigation, Dad had to spread things over 10 acres, but there is no wasted space on most vegetable farms and in my research area. Bare spots allow weeds to grow, erosion and leaching of nutrients. Always conserve light, space, water, time, nutrients, etc. In other words, do not allow anything to be wasted.
Finally, with us kids, Dad had plenty of planters, hoers, picker and eaters. Were they better, stricter or meaner parents? I do not know. We were tired but happier, healthier and less stressed in those days.
In your planning for your farm, always consider who will be doing the work and eating the fruits of the labor.
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