Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in Northeast Texas, with the area responsible for producing large amounts of corn, beans, cotton and other crops. But what exactly does it take to be a farmer, the backbone of the agriculture business?
Area farmer Rex West of West Farms, Land and Cattle, said the most important thing new or would-be farmers need to understand is farming is unlike any other job.
“I always say that farming isn’t a job; it’s a lifestyle,” West said. “There are going to be times when you have to go out and work the fields on a Saturday when you weren’t planning on it. There will be times you need to go take care of something at night. It’s just not a 9 to 5 job at all.”
West said it can be hard for new farmers looking to get started, as the cost of land, equipment and seed can be high. Luckily, he said, there are loans provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farm Service Agency to help aspiring farmers get started.
Once a new farmer has gotten the land, seed and equipment necessary they need, the first few months and even years can be quite stressful, West said.
“You hope you can make enough to pay back the loans. You aren’t sure if your crops will come up. You don’t know if you’ll be able to pay the bills,” he said.
It’s critical, West said, for farmers to have a clear gameplan in mind when starting out. At the same time, though, they need to be able to adapt if circumstances change.
“The biggest thing is weather,” West said. “You don’t have any control over it, and there’s only so much you can do.”
Once a farmer has gotten their feet under themselves a bit, the day-to-day work consists of a lot of maintenance and updating of equipment, he said.
When it comes to maintaining crops, the amount of work varies on the crop. For instance, West said corn is a fairly self-sufficient crop, and in most cases, only needs to be tended to a handful of times per season. On the other hand, he said, cotton is much more susceptible to problems and requires regular care throughout the week.
Something else to keep in mind, West said, is a big part of the job is managing the finances.
The hardest part of farming is rebounding when things go poorly.
“Sometimes things go bad and you need to rebound,” West said. “You need to remember to plug ahead, and the sun is going to come out tomorrow.”
All the difficulties are worth it, though, when a farmer sees the fruit of their labor.
“Watching your crops grow, and then harvesting and seeing the result of all your hard work is amazing,” West said. “It’s one of the best feelings, and there’s nothing quite like it.”