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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/.

A Father’s Guidance

Steve Snider still follows the advice of his late father and plans to hand it off, along with the family farm, to the next generation.

The Snider farm is in an irrevocable trust, but only through two generations, ensuring it will remain intact for Steve’s two sons, while allowing for eventual adjustments in the face of certain change.

The Snider farm is in an irrevocable trust, but only through two generations, ensuring it will remain intact for Steve’s two sons, while allowing for eventual adjustments in the face of certain change.

Winter farm work in Lerna, Ill., was typically slow. So, Bill Snider encouraged his teenage son Steve to spend those days looking off the farm for productive things to do. The young man occupied his time with odd jobs, including a stint as an equipment operator at a landfill. He also completed computer science courses at the nearby college after the subject piqued his interest.

However, the elder Snider’s nudging served a purpose greater than earning extra money or filling the idle hours. It was a proverbial push from the nest.

“Looking back, Dad was urging me to get out and not just be dependent on the farm,” says Steve, who is now 38. “He wanted me to broaden my spectrum on the world … to get a sense of the world and how other bosses are, to see how things work differently.”

But Steve says his dad was the best boss of them all. “He taught me about management,” says Steve. “Not to overextend yourself. Stay within your means. Try to be a good steward of the ground. And he taught me about conservation, so you don’t lose what you’ve got.”

Steve’s off-the-farm experiences just seemed to make him appreciate his family’s corn and bean operation all the more. “I decided that coming back to the farm was the only thing to do,” he says. “It still felt right.”

Bill eventually fell ill, and when he passed last Leap Day, Steve was grief-stricken but ready to take over. Today, Steve manages about 1,600 acres, with close to 1,400 of those planted in corn and beans. Another 40 of those acres are dedicated to a herd of roughly 20 Black Angus cattle. The rest are wooded areas.

Steve says the legacy of that land was very important to his father. Because of that, Bill’s wish was that upon his death, the farm would be placed in an irrevocable land trust, stipulating that it remain intact and in the Snider family through two more generations.

“We just didn’t want someone else coming in and taking it away,” says Steve’s mother Barb. “That’s what Steve’s grandpa would have wanted too. He worked hard for that.”

For expert advice on land trusts, and to read why Bill and Steve Snider switched from Deere to Massey Ferguson equipment (hint: better fuel efficiency and comfort), visit http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/a-fathers-guidance/.

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