A few weeks after harvest is over, Ray Tucker studies the yield reports on his corn and soybeans and begins the task of planning for the following year. As a sixth-generation farmer, this is a well-practiced ritual for Tucker.
“We go back about five years in the records,” says Tucker, who uses this data not only to keep track of how his fields have been producing throughout the years, but also to plan what varieties of corn, soybean, wheat and tobacco he will plant the following year.
“We normally don’t plant one variety for more than two years,” he explains.
He notes that available seed varieties tend to change every few years, which he enjoys because “it keeps you on top of your varieties and what each of them will do.”
Farm management pragmatism
Tucker is very pragmatic in his approach to his farm management.
“My income depends on the weather,” he says. “It depends on the rain and depends on the sunshine, and it doesn’t make a difference what crop you’re talking about.”
Even so, Tucker never lets his crops want for anything that is within his control. He makes his decisions on crop inputs based on his expectations for the year. For example, if it is expected to be a rainy year, he knows that the disease potential will be high and adjustments will need to be made to better prepare the crop to fight against those diseases.
Balancing technological investment with the bottom line
Keeping up with technology is another important factor for Tucker.
“We’ve adapted to the technology,” says Tucker. “We are a very open-minded farm and are willing to give new products a try. We have to be in order to be profitable and sustainable for the future.”
While he extols the virtues of being progressive, Tucker cautions that “you have to draw a line between how much money you’re going to spend to keep up with the times and still be able to feed your family.”
For the love of the farm
When asked what stands out to him after his many years of farming, Tucker smiles as he says, “You have to want it. You have to want to spend 20 hours in the tractor, or the combine, or the sprayer. You have to want to do everything you can to have your crop do well.”
Those long hours and hard work have a very rewarding outcome.
“My most favorite thing is to be able to raise a family on the farm,” says Tucker, recalling picnic lunches and suppers on the field. “You work hard, and when the work is done, you can play hard.”
Tucker’s matter-of-fact tone belies his passion for his vocation.
“It’s our livelihood; it’s what we do.”