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From The Land Up

Tommy Porter chokes up when he talks about the land. As he tops a hill, he leans on a young oak tree. Eyes misting. Cheeks flushing. Spring green hay fields and cattle pastures roll out behind him.

Porter owns these 600 acres and another 308 down the road. He raises beef cattle, poultry and hogs, but he subscribes to the belief that he’s a borrower, a steward.

“The bank and I may hold this property, but we’re here for a short time,” he says.

“To be able to tend to part of God’s creation, that means something to me.”

Just 30 miles to the southwest sits the glass-and-steel, corporate skyline of Charlotte. It’s North Carolina’s largest, most metropolitan city. Here on the outskirts of the town of Concord, however, Porter has carved out his peace.

By the late 1970s, he and his wife Vicki were ready to chase the dream and started their cattle herd with five cows. In the mid-1980s, they bought 200 acres of corn and soybeans, and converted them to pasture.

In 30-plus years, they have grown the herd to 350 Hereford-Angus cows and calves. Along the way, Porter invested in the chicken business, expanding that operation to 68,000 broiler pullets and 30,000 broiler egg layers for Tyson Foods. The third leg of the livestock operation includes 2,200 large, white sows that breed between 102 and 105 pigs per week for Murphy-Brown.

Porter’s family has been a large part of his farm’s success. Growing up, his sons, Derek and Jared, and his daughter, Erin, performed daily chores and remained interested in the farm. Even though they’ve all got other full-time careers these days, Derek, a firefighter, still works the farm on his days off. And Jared’s wife, Colleen, now manages the layer houses.

“Tommy started with a dream,” says Chip Blalock, executive director of Sunbelt Ag Expo. “He didn’t inherit anything. He did it all the old fashioned way from scratch.” Judges considered the scope of Porter’s success a major factor when naming him the 2011 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

Part of Porter’s award as Farmer of the Year included the year-long use of any Massey Ferguson tractor serviced by Statesville Ag and Turf. He says he selected the MF5465 for its size. The 100 pto horsepower is the perfect fit for spreading fertilizer on his hay fields, then cutting and baling it when the time is right.

“It’s nice and roomy,” says Tommy, which is no surprise considering it has one of the largest cabs in its class. And the 61 square feet of glass translates to an immense amount of visibility. Another feature they really love is that the cab has its own suspension. “It makes a big difference when you spend 8 or 10 hours riding in something that’s comfortable,” says Tommy.

With one hand, they can move smoothly through the gears of the clutchless Dyna 4, 16-speed transmission. And because the environment, and quite frankly the economy, are so important to the Porters, the AGCO Power engine, with exceptional fuel economy and low emissions, makes a great deal of sense.

Because in the past there were no large Massey Ferguson dealers near the Porters, their farm has used John Deere equipment. But this honeymoon period with the MF5465 has made a believer of Derek, who uses it the most.

“Every time he uses it,” says Tommy, “he makes a point to say, ‘I really like that tractor. I like it better than the John Deere.’”

Read the full story at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/from-the-land-up/.

Earth & Sky

As a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, David Garfrerick jockeyed a rocket while helping to protect his country. He broke the sound barrier and mastered the art of aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings, piloting a 20-plus-ton jet loaded with ordnance and fuel on and off a football-field-size runway.

“It was a thrill, a challenge,” Garfrerick says, after a little cajoling on the subject. “It’s like being thrown off into the wild, out of control, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Even while flying high, Garfrerick says he’s always been fascinated by something decidedly more down to earth: gardening. While still in the Navy, he raised a variety of vegetables and other plants. “I’ve just always loved growing things and wanted some land to retire on, and bought this land, and just started growing things. It got bigger and bigger,” continues Garfrerick about the property near Alpine, Ala., “and at some point, I guess, I just had to start calling it a farm.”

All told, he and wife Dede own about 200 acres of rolling hills, including 80 acres of timber, 80 acres of pasture for his cattle, and about 5 acres of crops and orchard, from which he grows fruits and vegetables.

His produce and meat have a starring role in his latest “adventure,” a restaurant he owns and runs in Oxford, Ala., about a 45-minute drive from his home and farm. Opened in 2008, the philosophy behind the restaurant, Garfrerick says, is that “fresh, healthy food can be delicious.”

With so many responsibilities, Garfrerick counts on his MF275 to help him get the job done. The MF275 performs a multitude of chores on the 200-acre farm. It’s used to operate a vertical tiller, move hay for cattle, maintain the roads on his land, work a front-end loader, pull a wagon—and that’s just a sampling.

“The Massey is the only thing I’ve ever used, and I find it very convenient,” says Garfrerick. “It’s easy to change out implements and maintain. It just saves a whole lot of physical labor, having a good-size tractor like that.”

It’s also reliable, he says. “We don’t have to do a lot of repair work on it, which is a surprise because it’s old.” Garfrerick, who bought the tractor used, hazards a guess it’s at least 30 years old.

Because of the tractor’s age, maintenance is all the more important. “It’s the only one we own, so it’s critical we keep it running,” he says, adding that his dealer, Bannister Tractor Co., in Oxford, Ala., “keeps me advised on what to do.”

Listen to Garfrerick talk about how his Massey Ferguson helps him grow produce for his restaurant.

“They’re familiar with the parts and the typical things that will solve issues when I need maintenance and repair. And they’re familiar with the preventative maintenance I need to keep up with. They’re just knowledgeable about the tractor itself.

“That’s a huge help for me,” says Garfrerick, noting that, with running a restaurant and farm, he’s got a lot going on. “Taking care of the tractor is one less thing I have to worry about.”

Read more at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/earth-and-sky/.

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