At age 90, Paul Good of Columbus, Miss., has had a long, distinguished and very good career in farming, first in his home state of Indiana and for the past 42 years in eastern Mississippi’s Noxubee County.
A farmer for 70 years, he’s old enough to remember rural electrification coming to the farm, and young enough to have used global positioning and variable rate applications.
As a result of his success as a crop farmer, Good has been selected as the state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. He joins nine other individuals as finalists for the overall award that will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Sunbelt Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.
He started farming full time in 1946 with 220 acres of rented land. His farm currently encompasses 1,050 acres with 90 acres rented and 960 acres of owned land.
His per acre yields last year included irrigated corn on 335.3 acres, 208.9 bushels; dryland corn on 80.2 acres, 175.2 bushels; irrigated full season soybeans on 211.1 acres, 64.96 bushels; dryland full season soybeans on 81 acres, 53.61 bushels; doublecropped soybeans on 127.5 acres, 49.43 bushels; and wheat on 127.5 acres, 61.38 bushels.
In addition, he raised catfish last year that produced 5,596.9 pounds per acre from his ponds.
He grew cotton for many years, but recently focused on growing corn and soybeans because they were more profitable. He added center pivot irrigation in 2007 and now irrigates 800 of the 960 acres he farms. He uses information on soil type and yield maps to adjust seeding with his variable rate planter.
Good used chicken litter for fertilizer over many years to help build up soil nutrient levels. Minor elements such as zinc helped him boost corn test weight. Starter fertilizer and split nitrogen applications also help his corn, as does fertilizer applied through irrigation just prior to tasseling.
His conservation practices include the installation of drain tile, terraces and grassed waterways on his farm. He adopted minimum tillage and no-till planting.
He has worked closely with university, USDA and industry representatives to test new varieties and chemicals. One on-farm trial was aimed at controlling plant bugs in cotton, and another evaluated the benefits of chicken litter.
“I plan to install more drain tile, use more cover crops and find better ways of conserving land and water,” he says. “I will also continue my work in variety testing plots with university and industry representatives to gain more knowledge about new technology.”
Until several years ago, he farmed about 2,500 acres. He has cut back on his farming to distribute a portion of his land to his children. “We took 1,260 acres and divided it among our children,” he explains.
As a child during the Great Depression, he milked cows and shucked corn by hand on his father’s Indiana farm. He says, “We milked all of our cows by hand until 1938 or 1939 when we got rural electrification on our farm.”
He remembers the Dust Bowl in the upper Midwest. “In the north, we faced wind erosion and blowing dust, while in the South we face soil erosion from water,” he adds. He was drafted into the Army during World War II, but was given an exemption. “The country needed me more on the farm growing food than it needed me in the Army,” he recalls. He also remembers rationing of rubber needed for the war effort. As a farmer, his father was able to buy tires when others couldn’t.
In the 1940’s and early 1950’s before herbicides were used, he cultivated widely spaced corn in the direction of the rows, then came back and cultivated again across the rows.
By the early 1970’s, urban growth from Chicago suburbs reached near his farm in Valparaiso, Ind. So he started looking south for farming opportunities, and liked what he found in Mississippi. He grew his first Mississippi crops in 1973, and moved to the Magnolia State in 1974.
Marketing is a year-round process. He likes to start selling his crops early in the season. As a member of a marketing group during the 1980’s and 1990’s, he learned to appreciate diversity in marketing opportunities. He sells grain to several poultry companies. He has used commodity futures and options, and has occasionally exported crops by shipping them down the Mississippi River.
In past years, Good raised crops for seed. He owned and operated Good Seeds, a certified seed business that cleaned and marketed seeds. During this time, he was also dealer for Pioneer and Northrup King grain varieties.
Good has been active in a number of organizations. In Indiana, he served on a county agricultural advisory board and as a Land Bank director, and on a soil and water conservation board. He was also active in Farm Bureau and in his local church.
In Mississippi, he has also served on a soil and water conservation district board, a Farm Bureau advisory board and a local Extension advisory board.
Paul and his wife Joyce married 39 years ago after each had been widowed. They have been active members of Cornerstone Community Church in Macon, Miss., where Joyce taught Sunday school classes to teens.
As the daughter of a coal miner, Joyce is no stranger to hard work. Starting early in their marriage, Joyce worked alongside Paul doing various farm tasks. Now, she focuses on her ministry to nursing home patients.
Paul and Joyce have four adult children, Gail Atkinson, Steven Good, Philip Good and Janice Weaver. They take great pride that all of their children and several grandchildren are involved in farming. Joyce says, “Our children have a strong work ethic, and as a family, we’ve always prayed about our major financial decisions.”
Since 1984, Paul has farmed in partnership with Janice’s husband, Dale Weaver. Dale and Janice also own and farm land in Noxubee County.
Steven, their oldest son, has farmed since 1973. Steven owns land in the Mississippi Delta and also rents and owns land in Noxubee County. Steven’s son Benjamin also farms in Noxubee County and helps Steven with his farm.
Their youngest son, Philip owns and rents farmland in Noxubee County, and operates a real estate company. Philip’s son Christian is a recent Mississippi State University graduate and will be farming with Philip.
Their daughter Gail lives out of state, but owns Noxubee County farmland that she rents out to her brother Philip.
Steve Martin with Mississippi Extension Service coordinates the Farmer of the Year award in the state. Good was nominated for the honor by Dennis Reginelli, agronomic regional Extension specialist. Reginelli admires how Good speaks to the news media about farming. Reginelli says Good has hosted visitors from Poland, Brazil, Russia, Germany and elsewhere on tours of his farm. “Mr. Paul spends quality time with all the people who come by to see him,” says Reginelli. “He has made me a better person and a better Extension agent.”
As the Mississippi state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Good 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 and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.
He is now eligible for the $15,000 cash award that will go 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, a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply and a smoker-grill from Hays LTI.
Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand, and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards for the 27th consecutive year. Swisher has contributed some $1,040,000 in cash awards and other honors to southeastern farmers since the award was initiated in 1990.
Previous state winners from Mississippi include: Hugh Arant, Sr. of Ruleville, 1990; Bill Hawks of Hernando, 1991; Kenneth Hood of Gunnison, 1992; Tol Thomas of Cruger, 1993; Rick Parsons of Vance, 1994; Ed Hester of Benoit, 1995; Bill Harris of Benton, 1996; Robert Miller of Greenwood, 1997; Ted Kendall, III of Bolton, 1998; Wayne Bush of Schlater, 1999; William Tackett of Schlater, 2000; Willard Jack of Belzoni, 2001; Hugh Arant, Jr. of Ruleville, 2002; Rick Parsons of Vance, 2003; Sledge Taylor of Como, 2004; Laurance Carter of Rollins Fork, 2005; Brooks Aycock of Belzoni, 2006; Tom Robertson of Indianola, 2007; Gibb Steele III of Hollandale, 2008; Donald Gant of Merigold, 2009; Dan Batson of Perkinston, 2010; Scott Cannada of Edwards, 2011; Bill Spain of Booneville, 2012; Abbott Myers of Dundee, 2013; Danny Murphy of Canton, 2014; and Allen Eubanks of Lucedale, 2015.
Mississippi has had three overall winners, Kenneth Hood of Gunnison in 1993, Ed Hester of Benoit in 1995 and Willard Jack of Belzoni in 2001.
A distinguished panel of judges will visit the Good farm, along with the farms of the other nine state finalists, during the week of Aug. 1-5. The judges for this year include Clark Garland, longtime University of Tennessee Extension ag economist from Maryville, Tenn.; farmer Thomas Porter, Jr., of Concord, N.C., the overall winner in 2011; and Charles Snipes, retired Mississippi Extension weed specialist from Greenville, Miss.
Note to media: The judges will visit the Good farm on Aug. 2 from 1-4 p.m. If you would like to visit the farm during the final two hours of judging, please call John Leidner at 229-392-1798, or contact him by email at [email protected], or contact Good by calling 662-361-7843.