Farm City week draws to a close

Published 7:19 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Day will bring Farm City Week 2008 to a close but not without having brought attention to the viable connection between the rural and urban communities all across the country.

In Pike County, Farm City Week was celebrated throughout the month of November with a variety of activities including the proclamation signing designating Farm City Week in Pike County, the Farm City Awards Banquet, Farm City Swap, the mini-farm at Banks Primary School, the Red Hat Ladies tour of Bill Sanders’ farm and a special newspaper section highlighting Farm City Week.

Jenniffer Barner, Pike County Chamber of Commerce president, said the Chamber and its Farm City committee sponsor Farm City Week each year in an effort to strengthen and promote the partnership and kinship between the two communities.

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Pike County continues to be an agricultural community even though the face of agriculture continues to change, said Jeff Knotts, Pike County FSA executive director. “Farmers diversify in order to ‘at least’ break even,” Knotts said. “For a long time, cotton was the money crop, then the boll weevil came along and wiped out the cotton and peanuts took over as the main cash crop. Then cotton made a comeback. That’s the way it is with farming.”

In 2007, Pike County farmers planted 4,000 acres of cotton. In 2008, they planted 3,123 acres.

“The price was down a bit and so less cotton was planted,” Knotts said. “The opposite was true with peanuts. In 2007, Pike County farmers planted 3,800 in peanuts. This year, they received a better contract from the buyers so peanuts were up to 5,950 acres. It all depends on supply and demand.”

Corn was down from 4,792 acres in 2007 to 3,154 acres in 2008.

“That was because of the drought conditions in 2007 and it was dry again this year,” Knotts said. “But farmers have started to plant a variety of corn that is more worm resistant so they can plant later, in June and July. Before, if you planted late corn, the worms would more than likely get it. Now, with this new variety, farmers can take advantage of the late summer showers.”

The concern with late planting is that crop insurance is not available after the final planting date so, in that sense, farmers take a chance.

This year soybean acreage was up from 922 acres in 2007 to 1,329.

“Soybean prices were up a little and they require less fertilizer than other row crops and fertilizer prices are up,” Knotts said. “So, that accounted for the increased acres.”

There are a few farmers that plant specialty crops such as peas, watermelons and sweet corn but nothing on a large scale.

“Those specialty crops do give the farmers an opportunity to take advantage of farmers’ markets,” Knotts said. “But fruits and vegetables are labor intensive crops and not many farmers want to invest that much time in small crops.”

Timber is the biggest agricultural industry in Pike County and the trend is in pines … and poultry.

“Farmers do what they have to do to stay in business and we need farmers, there’s no doubt about that,” Knotts said.