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More Thoughts On N. Alabama Trip

When you read the February issue of Cotton Farming, you’ll learn a lot about a fascinating farm family I met in mid-January. The Darnells of Hillsboro, Ala., join a long list of farmers I’ve had the privilege of visiting in the last several years. Everybody’s story is different, but a common thread runs through these families, and that’s what makes the entire experience so special.
I know it’s a cliché to say this, but it’s hard to ignore the energy and persistence these farmers exhibit every year. No matter where I go, I always come away with an even greater appreciation for how cotton farmers persevere during these times. Such was the case when I visited the Darnells.
Even though everyone in the family – Danny, Pat, Heath and Jared – is predictably excited about high cotton prices, they also cling to a long-held strategy of proceeding cautiously. They were quick to remind me that just because prices are well over a dollar is no reason to overlook other financial issues. It was Pat who reminded me that high input costs are bound to follow these record-high prices. That means the Darnells will continue to do what they always do. They pencil out every cost so that there won’t be any surprises when they make their pre-planting decisions.
How careful are the Darnells about their finances? They are persistent in researching every purchasing decision before pulling the trigger. That’s how you avoid a surprise later on.
On a related note, you can also go out to the maintenance sheds near their farm office and see an impressive array of equipment that has been in the family for many years. Danny loves to work on old machinery, and his collection of pickers, tractors, planters and sprayers looks like a museum. He even has a one-row picker that has to be seen to be properly appreciated.
As we mentioned in our February cover story, Danny loves history and purchased an old country grocery store several years ago. All of the historical items are still inside, and to walk through the old store is like walking through a Civil War museum. Even the old cash register is still there. The store is pretty much boarded up right now, but someday Danny hopes to restore the entire building. For now, he holds onto it because of his love of history.
The Darnells are the kind of farming family that appreciates the past and never forgets what the earlier generation contributed. Not surprisingly, they also have learned how to adapt to today’s agricultural environment, which requires a keen eye for finances and a willingness to adapt.
Maybe the Darnells have discovered the true formula for success in today’s farming world. Appreciate and revere the past. Learn from your mistakes and be ready to adjust when the new challenges arrive. So far, you can’t argue with their track record.