SURVIVAL MODEFarmers teamed up to take on Isaac

Published 11:45 am Monday, September 10, 2012

VALLEY PARK — Before Hurricane Isaac sent South Delta farmers scrambling to bring in the most bountiful harvest in years, C.J. Clark and Steve Boykin already had a plan.

Though they don’t tend to the same fields often, Clark and Boykin are lifelong friends who have teamed up for the better part of the past decade to help each other bring in the harvest.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a cross word,” Clark said. “The only thing we’ve ever disagreed about was the color of a tractor.”

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Clark uses red Case farm equipment, but Boykin prefers green John Deere equipment.

With the potentially destructive storm on the way, they doubled their efforts.

“Any time you get a storm headed your way, you kind of kick it up a notch,” Clark said.

They called in Boykin’s two brothers, and the four of them spent several nights harvesting soybeans until midnight or later to beat Isaac’s downpour.

“They start talking bad weather and everyone wants you to hurry up,” Boykin said.

Isaac mostly fizzled but still dumped 5.5 inches of rain on the 240 acres where Clark and Boykin were operating their respective red and green harvesters Thursday.

“The hurricane didn’t really do any damage other than make it muddy in a few spots,” Clark said. “We were just lucky that in this area we didn’t get 10 to 12 inches of rain and a bunch of wind.”

Mud can easily turn into a farmer’s worst enemy. On Thursday, an 18-wheeler loaded with grain sank into the still soggy field, and the two harvesters left behind huge ruts that will require repair before the next planting season.

Moisture causes soybean pods to close tightly, forcing farmers to adjust their schedules to avoid morning dew, Clark said.

With near-perfect weather for agriculture and no flooding, the crop yield from the South Delta has been banter, Boykin said.

“Everybody in this area from Vicksburg to Greenville ought to be tickled,” Boykin said.

So much grain was coming in Thursday and Friday that elevators at Valley Park and Mayersville neared capacity. Low river conditions have prevented barges from being able to ship out grain.

“The combines are bigger and faster and the elevators just haven’t kept up with the equipment,” Boykin said.

Many farmers have returned to self-storage because of the shortage of elevator space, but that option doesn’t make economic sense for small-scale farmers, Boykin said.

“It would be kind of hard for a man like him (Clark) or me to put up storage,” Boykin said.

Though Boykin considers his and Clark’s operations relatively small, they produce on average 35 to 40 truckloads of soybeans every day, said Jordan Clark, who works for his father as a grain-cart operator. Each truck contains about 1,200 bushels of grain, he said.

“I get the grain out of the field as fast as possible,” Jordan Clark said. “But it’s slow. It’s a slow process.”