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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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A Young Alabama Farmer’s Lifelong Balancing Act

By Jillian

Jared Etress of Alabama putting Deltapine cotton seed into the planter

Very few college students look forward to waking up early on the weekends. Even fewer look forward to waking up to a day of manual labor in the humidity and in nearly 100 degree weather.

My fiancé, Jared Etress,doesn’t mind waking up early—or working.

Born and raised in Southeast Alabama, farming has always been a passion for Jared—it probably had something to do with the fact that he’s been riding in a tractor since he was two.

“I was riding with my granddaddy before I was big enough to walk,” explained Jared. “I guess I really started doing things around the farm when I was 5 or 6—helping feed cows, fix fence, be the go-for boy. I started helping Uncle Gene when I was about 9.”

Working on his granddaddy’s farm, as well as his uncle’s, Jared developed a flair for fixing things, welding, and caring for the land. His experience, mostly in peanut production, includes all aspects of the crop cycle—from planting to harvest, as well as any mishaps that occur in the middle.

“You learn a lot about the business growing up on a farm, but no matter how much you know there is always room for advancing your education.”

Farming on his own since 2008, Jared made an uncommon move for someone determined to make a living farming: he moved three hours away and went to college.

“I wanted to learn the scientific reasons—why things work the way they do. By learning the reasons and the steps, I can head off problems in the crops before they happen.” Jared’s scientific search led him to Auburn University where he is currently working on an Agronomy and Soils degree and working in the soils lab.

But his passion was still waiting back home on the farm, so after a lot of research and several conversations with professors at Auburn and other veteran cotton farmers—Jared planted his first 35 acres of cotton; Deltapine 0949 B2RF.

Much to my surprise, he said his greatest obstacle has not been overcoming the balancing act between school, work and the peanut and cotton crops—but overcoming last year’s losses.

“A combination of a dry spring last year and a very wet fall led to a big reduction in yields. Trying to overcome last year’s losses with sporadic rains this summer could turn out to be one of my biggest challenges.”

But the challenges from last year haven’t dampened his spirit. Jared is optimistic about this year’s crop.

“We’ve been blessed with the right amount of rain during planting, good emergence and low disease and insect pressure. Things are looking good so far—and cotton prices are up.”

For a better look at the faces that are feeding our nation visit Americasfarmers.com.

Jillian is a summer intern within Public Affairs. Raised on a peanut and cattle operation, she developed a passion for the land, livestock and old tractors. She is a senior at Auburn University pursing a degree in Agriculture Communications and a minor in Agronomy and Soils. In her free time she enjoys writing poetry, playing basketball and exploring the rural areas outside of St. Louis.

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