This has been a difficult year for Jack Trumbo of Simpsonville, Ky. In February, his home burned down. About a month later, he suffered a life-threatening accident when a tractor ran over him. He endured multiple injuries. Prompt medical attention helped save his life, followed by surgeries and a long rehabilitation.
He recently took a major step forward in his recovery when he started using a walker to get around. Despite occasional setbacks, he keeps a positive attitude and remains determined to climb back upon a tractor and manage his farm at the profitable levels it reached in prior years. A farmer for 64 years, Trumbo is an outstanding crop producer. His main crops are soybeans, corn, wheat and rye.
As a result of his farming success, Trumbo has been selected as the 2015 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award winner for Kentucky. He joins nine other state winners as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.
Trumbo farms more than 2,000 acres of rented land. Recent per acre yields on his farm have been about 50 bushels for soybeans, 178 bushels for corn and 65 bushels for wheat.
Straw is a major crop. He grows rye on 800 acres as a cover crop and for straw. He has also partnered with other farmers to bale, store and deliver straw to horse and landscape customers.
He has provided planting, spraying, harvesting and mowing for other landowners, and these custom farming services have helped pay for his equipment.
Trumbo says the custom farming and straw sidelines boosted his gross farm revenues by 20%. Trumbo also works closely with a crop consultant who checks for pests and keeps tabs on the overall condition and potential yield of his crops.
As a child, his first farm job was operating a sickle bar mower and cutting grass silage behind a team of horses. After high school, he lost an eye in a shop accident and invested in a gasoline station while farming on the side. He rented 110 acres during his first year of farming. He sold the service station and became a full time farmer at age 42.
Over the years, he also lost much of his ability to hear. Modern hearing aid technology helps him overcome this handicap.
In recent years, Trumbo bought an old manufacturing facility in Simpsonville that he transformed into an equipment storage and repair facility. He leases out some of the space and would like to develop an aquaculture enterprise on the site.
Forward contract sales have helped him market his crops. He has used forward sales as early as two years prior to planting, but most of the time the forward sales take place after he establishes the likely size of the current year’s crops. He also uses a professional marketing firm that provides him with advice on crop hedging. He also uses crop storage when he sees a price advantage of holding onto a crop.
He works to protect the environment. For instance, he practices crop rotation and maintains waterways and buffer strips to minimize erosion. Since 1992, he has used no-till planting. He uses precision farming technology such as automated steering and variable rate applications to reduce the waste of fuel, fertilizers, herbicides and seed. He plants extensive cover crops to promote soil aeration and to reduce the amount of herbicides and fertilizer needed for his main crops.
Keeping landlords happy helps keep land available for farming, according to Trumbo. He uses cash leases, crop share leases and leases that combine elements of cash leasing with farming on shares. He supports conservation easement programs and is proud that only one of the farms he has rented during the past 22 years was later sold for development.
Trumbo stays up to date on farming technology. “There’s room in our world for GMO, non-GMO, organic and production agriculture,” he says. “Working together, we can provide the products and services our customers demand, whether they are from the U.S. or are international customers.”
Supporting young farmers is also a Trumbo trademark. For the past 12 years, he has farmed with twin brothers James and Jeremy Tucker. He considers them his “adopted sons.” Trumbo has also worked with legal and financial experts to develop a transition plan for his farm, and he’d like for the twins to eventually manage it. The brothers have bought their own land, and they stepped up and operated Trumbo’s farm after his accident.
“The next goal in my life is to start a campaign for safety switches and overall farm tractor safety,” says Trumbo.
Trumbo is a longtime agricultural leader. Locally, he has served as president of Shelby County Farm Bureau. He has taken part in many Farm Bureau-sponsored legislative activities and workshops. He says, “Leadership Shelby taught me the inner workings and connectivity between private industry and local governmental agencies.”
He was named Farmer of the Year during Shelby County’s Farm-City celebration. He has served as a locally elected USDA Farm Service Agency committee member. He has been a member and served as Master of the Wingate Masonic Lodge.
He is a member of Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Soybean Advisory Committee. Trumbo also joined the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association and the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, and has been an active supporter of FFA and 4-H programs.
In the Kentucky Soybean Association, he has served for nine years on the board of directors, and has served as treasurer, secretary and vice president. Trumbo has also been active in the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board and has served as its chairman. His work with soybean organizations has also allowed him to travel internationally to Central and South America, to South Korea and China. He has also hosted Chinese farmers on his farm.
His work with the American Soybean Association has shown him how U.S. soybeans can revitalize Asian fisheries and boost aquaculture in Central America. He is also serving on the World Soy Foundation and a committee on the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health.
On the national level, Trumbo has represented both Kentucky Farm Bureau and the state’s soybean industry in trips to Washington, D.C., to present the farming industry’s policy views to elected officials.
With his wife Gwyn, he has traveled to the country of Kenya in Africa for an agricultural mission on behalf of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Jack and Gwyn are members of Simpsonville Baptist Church. They have counseled detention center inmates and have worked as precinct officers and poll volunteers.
Gwyn planted soybeans early in her marriage to Jack, and he came to appreciate her knack for planting long straight rows. She has been the bookkeeper for the farm for many years. Gwyn and Jack have a son, Rob, who is in the demolition and construction business, and they have a grandson, Austin.
Gwyn is also an agricultural leader. She has been on the board and on the Women’s Committee and other committees of Shelby County Farm Bureau. She has supported Ag in the Classroom and other local agricultural programs and local fairs.
L. Joe Cain with Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation is state coordinator of the Farmer of the Year award. Trumbo was nominated for the honor by his friend John A. Wills, president of the Shelby County Farm Bureau and a farmer from Shelbyville, Ky.
As the Kentucky state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Trumbo will now receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, the choice of either $1,000 in cottonseed or a $500 donation to a designated charity from PhytoGen, and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.
He is now eligible for the $15,000 cash prize that goes to the overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, another $500 gift certificate from Southern States, the choice of another $1,000 in cottonseed or a second $500 donation to a designated charity from PhytoGen, and a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.
Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand, and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards for the 26th consecutive year. Swisher has contributed more than $1 million in cash awards and other honors to southeastern farmers since the award was initiated in 1990.
Kentucky farmers became eligible to compete for the Farmer of the Year award in 2006. Previous state winners from Kentucky include Sam Moore of Morgantown in 2006, Scott Travis of Cox’s Creek in 2007, Loretta Lyons of Tompkinsville in 2008, Doug Langley of Shelbyville in 2009, Joe Nichols of Cadiz in 2010; Jim Sidebottom of Greensburg in 2012; Scott Travis of Cox’s Creek in 2013; and Ray Allan Mackey of Elizabethtown, 2014.
A distinguished panel of judges will visit the Trumbo farm, along with the farms of the other nine state finalists, during the week of Aug. 10-14. The judges for this year include John Woodruff, retired University of Georgia Extension agronomist from Tifton, Ga., who specialized in soybeans for many years; Clark Garland, longtime University of Tennessee Extension ag economist from Maryville, Tenn.; and farmer Thomas Porter, Jr., of Concord, N.C., who was the overall winner in 2011.
Note to media: The judges will visit the Trumbo farm on Aug. 13 from 2-5 p.m. If you would like to visit the farm during the final two hours of judging, call John Leidner at 229-392-1798, or contact him by e-mail at [email protected], or contact Trumbo by calling 502-722-8961.