In the early 1900s, my great grandparents came to Lake Village, Arkansas, from Italy.
Today, my family on both my mom and dad’s side are predominantly cotton farmers. There have been good years and tough years production wise, but they’ve averaged out OK overall.
One of the best I remember was the 2007 crop when modules were everywhere. I know, I got to tag a bunch of them. One of the worst years, other than the hurricane that came through last fall, was 2009. We picked cotton in the water — only time I ever witnessed that.
Where I lived and grew up in Lake Village — the home of Lake Chicot — was always referred to as “across the lake in Pieroni Ville.” It was about 20 minutes from town. There wasn’t much to do if it wasn’t in a field, on a turnrow or in the lake — our sandbox and swimming pool. I am the oldest of three siblings to my brother and sister. Everything has been a learning experience no matter what I am doing — work related or play related but mostly work.
Growing up on the farm, I remember waiting in the front yard during harvest to flag down my uncle who pulled the cotton trailers to the gin so I could ride with him. It was exciting to go to town for something other than school or church. In the spring of my ninth grade, I helped Dad with a few odds and ends on the farm, such as spot spraying Johnsongrass with a belly boom and chopping hog weeds.
But that year was different. A John Deere tractor and a Case IH disk were waiting on me when I got out of school for spring break. They were all mine for the week. My uncle showed me the dos and don’ts, made a few rounds and let me go. He was back before long as I got the wing caught on the outside dual.
I was glad Dad wasn’t there as I probably would have gotten fired. From then on, I helped my dad and uncle on the farm on the weekends. My brother helped a good bit, too. We worked alongside the other labor that worked for my grandpa (Popa Joe), dad and uncle. They were like family as well.
In high school, I had different jobs learning aspects of life other than the farm. One summer I was a lifeguard at the state park, and one year I worked at the local grocery store. The last two were spent working at the local country club on the golf course and at a jewelry store in Lake Village. I took the jobs to get a paycheck, as I always worked on the farm doing something for free when I wasn’t working somewhere else.
When it was time for college, I told my mom and dad I wanted to go to University of Arkansas Monticello and major in forestry. When the time came, Mom and I toured the forestry building. As we were leaving the campus, I told her to go to where the agriculture building was located. I never went back in the forestry building and majored in ag business.
During college, I mostly worked on the farm with Dad while going to school. In January, after my third semester — my fun semester — Dad gave me two options: go back to school or go where there was a disk they were going to re-blade. He said, “You will start tomorrow tearing it down with no air wrench,” and it was cold. I said I wanted to go back to school.
I graduated in spring 2004 with a degree in ag business. After college, the real world started, and I got my own mailbox. I worked 11 years for Farm Credit after a short stint with UAP. I have since moved on to the local bank in Lake Village and have been here for six years. I continue to help my dad and my Uncle David on the farm but not as much as I used to. I have a son, Evan, 11, and a daughter, Amelia, 3, who occupy most of my spare time.
Here at the bank, I mostly work with farmers. This spring, I met Mike Lamensdorf, the president of One Grower Publishing and Cotton Farming magazine. I told him I always enjoyed reading My Turn. He said, “Jared, why don’t you take a turn and submit a letter about growing up on the farm?” So I did.
— Jared Pieroni