Farm City swap

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 14, 2009

The old adage that the other man’s grass is always greener has very little truth to it.

That’s according to Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford and Pike County farmer Billy Hixon.

The two had the opportunity to swap jobs for a day and both came away knowing that they are just where they need to be but also with a deeper appreciation for what the other does.

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Lunsford is certain that he’s more comfortable in a pair of shiny Cole Haans than he is in muddy brogans, and Hixon is positive that he’s more comfortable on the seat of a John Deere than he is the leather luxury of the mayor’s chair.

The city slicker and the country boy swapped jobs as part of the annual Farm City Week activities and it was a learning experience for both.

Lunsford is a country boy at heart and he’s not been “in town” so long that he’s forgotten what it was like in the peanut fields around Needmore.

“Farming has changed a lot since I was a boy,” he said. “Much of the backbreaking work has been turned over to machines. You’ve got to have a good head on your shoulders to farm these days.”

Lunsford spent a morning with Hixon on his farm near Monticello and said he was most impressed with the size of the farm.

“When I was growing up, our farm was somewhere between 300 and 400 acres and that was total acres,” the mayor said. “That included the woods and the swamp area. Today, farmers are dealing with a thousand acres or more. Farming is big business and that’s what it takes to be successful in today’s market. The price of everything is so high – equipment, fertilizer, pesticides, feed. And the way farmers sell their products is different. They have to watch the commodity markets and sometimes decide to sell their crop before it makes.”

Technology has made its way onto the farm, and Lunsford said his dad would not have known what to do with a computer.

“But there are some things that haven’t changed, and that’s good,” Lunsford said. “The way farmers care for their cattle is about the same and how they are fed and rotated in the pastures to keep them in fresh grass. Of course, we had square hay bales and they have the big round ones. The size of the tractors is much bigger and they can do so many more things but the concepts of farming are the same.”

The best thing about Lunsford’s morning on the farm was “going home for dinner.”

“Billy’s mom, Betty, cooked dinner for us and, if she ever wants to make a living cooking she can,” the mayor said. “That brought back a lot of memories of being on the farm and going home to dinner. Mama always had a big spread and it was good to experience that again.”

Hixon didn’t get any home cooking while he was “in town” but he did have his eyes opened to all the things that go on behind the scenes in city government.

“I learned a good bit in a short time about the many things that it takes to run a city – things that the average citizen doesn’t know about,” Hixon said. “One example was that Mayor Lunsford got an emergency call to check on a sewer. With all the heavy rain, there was concern that the street might be washed away.”

Hixon said the sewer emergency was similar to things that happen without warning on the farm.

“When they do, you have to stop and take care of them,” he said. “You can’t sit around and wait.”

Back at the office, the mayor showed Hixon plans for some of the city’s street projects.

“It was very interesting to see all of the different steps that have to be taken to get a project under way,” Hixon said. “We looked at plans showing how the traffic will be routed once the new arena is built at Troy University. That, too, is similar to what we do on the farm with our crop plans and the different steps we have to take to get a crop planted and harvested.”

Hixon attended the city council’s work session prior to the council meeting on Nov. 10.

“The work session was an opportunity to review the agenda for the meeting and to iron out any wrinkles that might come up,” he said. “The council meeting went real smooth. There were no controversial issues, and it was shorter than I had expected it to be.”

Hixon was introduced to the city employees in attendance and invited to address the council with some things he would like to see done.

“A couple of people had contacted me about putting streetlights on Elm Street and several in the Country Club subdivision wanted the potholes fixed,” Hixon said and added with a laugh that there were a few tickets that needed to be fixed.

“I suggested that the council give all city employees a 10 percent raise and reduce the taxes on the citizens. I asked if that could be done but didn’t really get an answer.”

The mayor laughingly told Hixon that he wasn’t eligible to run for the mayor’s seat, and he didn’t think that he would try to wrestle the plow out of his hand.

“I’ve thought several times that, when I cease being mayor, I might move back to the farm,” Lunsford said.

“But I don’t know that I would want to farm for my livelihood or even if I could. Being mayor can be stressful at times when you’re working on major projects. But I’ve read somewhere that farming is the second most stressful job behind that of air traffic controller.

“So much depends on the weather and the market. There are just too many unknowns and too many things you can’t control. I don’t think I could do it but I admire those who do and it’s critical that we maintain the family farms here in America.”

Just as Lunsford wouldn’t want to be a fulltime farmer, neither would Hixon want to be a fulltime mayor.

“The Good Lord makes us all different, and he didn’t make me to be a mayor,” Hixon said. “It’s a good thing that we don’t all want to do the same thing. If we did, we couldn’t survive. I’m satisfied with what I’m doing. I don’t want to be a politician.

“When I get up in the morning the cows don’t talk back to me and the chickens don’t talk back to me and I’m happy like that.”