By Tammi Arrender, This Week in Louisiana Agriculture
Normally during the summer, Louisiana families travel to the beach, often in Florida, for vacation.
This summer in Morehouse Parish, though, Dexter Gilbert and his kids drove 600 miles to attend the Morehouse Parish Black Farmers and Landowners field day to see the latest in ag technology. Farmers from three states also enhanced their ag education here, in part to encourage the next generation to take a second look at agriculture as a career.
“Because I have another generation that wants to farm and exposure for them to see the different types of farming other than what we do back home,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert is from Campbellton, Fla. He grows fruit and other produce in the panhandle of the Sunshine State and wanted to see how other farmers do things differently.
“We’re dry-land farmers back home,” he said. “We don’t have irrigation. We can’t raise the corn and the beans like they do here. “It’s great to bring them out and let them get to meet new people and all that stuff. Learn technology is the main thing.”
Technology was definitely on display during the field day. Lane Clarke with South Arkansas Equipment was on hand to demonstrate their DJI Phantom 4 drone and how it can help farming.
“The biggest advantage to the farmer is probably plant population, plant health,” Clarke, a precision specialist, said. “Showing you where your hot spots are in your field on your drone.”
Utilizing the latest technology is one of the key components to keeping young people interested in farming, according to Odis Hill with the Southern University Ag Center.
“There’s a concern about who’s going to take over that farm. The farmers are continuing to improve their farms but their biggest issue is, we gonna get anybody else to take over in that family.”
Harper Armstrong, the host of this annual event, is himself an avid learner at the field day. He said he’s always looking for ways to have value added features on his row crop farm in Morehouse parish near Collinston.
Armstrong grows peas and decided it was time to invest in a mechanical pea picker. Putting in a few acres of vegetables, right next to the predominant crop is one way growers are making some extra green.
“Even it’s an interest among row crop farms to try to make some additional cash,” Armstrong said. “Try to take some of their acres out of row crop and make that cash and put it into vegetable and produce.”
Just down the road from Armstrong Farms is Michael Seay, who is experimenting with Red Poll cattle on his 2.5-acre patch of pasture in Mer Rouge. He said this breed is very popular in England with a reputation for being mild mannered and yielding high-quality meat.
“They do well in limited space,” Seay said. “They do well with inadequate forage. I needed something that was easy to maintain. I needed something that would do well with the type of resources I had.”
Seay is an example of making the most of what you have, no matter the challenges. Seeing how he copes with those challenges is why the Gilbert farm family drove 600 miles to be here.
“It is a hard life but somebody has to do it,” Gilbert said. “If it’s something you love I think if you stick with it will be successful for you.”