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Claire Rose: Mr. Hood how long have you been a farmer?
Kenneth Hood: This is my 53rd crop to plant and if I get to harvest it, I will have planted and harvested 53.
Claire Rose: So 53 seasons?
Kenneth Hood: 53 seasons.
Claire Rose: 53 years, wow.
Kenneth Hood: 53 years.
Claire Rose: How did your farm get started?
Kenneth Hood: Actually, our farm got started, my father was a farmer, my grandfather was a farmer, and my great-grandfather was a farmer so I come from a farming family. And it is our family, my father bought what we call the home place in 1947 up outside of Duncan and there were five boys and a girl and we all I guess wanted to come back home and farm. And so actually I started farming my first year, I went to Mississippi State and graduated in 1962 but actually we rented this place right here, here at Perthshire in 1960 and that’s when I started. My first year was 1960.
Claire Rose: So what kind of crops have you grown over the years?
Kenneth Hood: Basically middle name ought to be cotton because we’ve always planted cotton, cotton and more cotton up until three or four years ago. Basically, our whole operation has been geared toward cotton and over that period of 53 years that I’ve been farming, we’ve accumulated two gins and all this infrastructure for cotton and now then the price of cotton-- we’ve seen the demise of the cotton industry in the mid south and I never thought I’d see it in the Mississippi Delta but we’ve actually witnessed the demise of the cotton industry here in the Delta. So we converted to other crops now.
Claire Rose: Do you know what happened, what caused the demise of cotton in the mid south, are other areas growing cotton?
Kenneth Hood: Our cost of production probably has more to do with it than anything because we have extreme insect pressure, we have weed pressure, and so we have seen the cotton prices be stagnated. In other words, they’ve been low, grain prices have increased in their value, and it’s forced us all to cut back on cotton acres and go to a more grain-related enterprises.
Claire Rose: Such as corn.
Kenneth Hood: Such as corn, right now we raise wheat, corn, soybeans, and occasionally some rice.
Claire Rose: Oh okay wow that’s a lot of different things to come in and this has only come in in the past three years you’re saying?
Kenneth Hood: Right, this is our actually we planted cotton up until four years ago almost turn row to turn row in nothing but cotton. And so we have a large cotton base but now then we’re converting to more corn and hadn’t planted any wheat in a good while but we’re also going back to wheat. The reason for that is the resistance weed pressure we have and we give a rotation and can utilize some tillage by doing it that way along with the new technology of the new chemicals that we have.
Claire Rose: So typically, you have a lot of, every couple of seasons you come up with more weeds or more insects that are resistant and you have to find new ways to deal with them.
Kenneth Hood: Absolutely you know seven or eight years ago, palmer smooth leaf, pigweed, saw very few of them and then all of a sudden there’s an explosion. And that explosion was brought on by resistance to some of the chemicals that we had historically used over the years. not only that but we have gone through a number, here in the Delta, we’ve gone through a number of flood stages on the Mississippi River where they brought more seed into us that helped give us some problems that we normally would not have had.
Claire Rose: Oh, okay.
Richard Coupe: You mean the water from the mid west would have brought seed down here?
Kenneth Hood: Well absolutely I mean not only that but and then we’ve had the; with the; I guess what I’m trying to say is the wild life habitat that we’ve established here in the mid south. We’ve done quite a good job of doing that, which means we have attracted more migratory birds and geese to fly in, and they have contributed to our weed problem greatly.
Richard Coupe: Really, I didn’t know that.
Claire Rose: What kind of concerns do you have as a farmer that you have to deal with?
Kenneth Hood: Well I guess I’m gonna put it this way, there’s three things that on a daily basis that I worry about. Of course the first one is weather and we’ve gone through some extreme dry years here at Perthshire Farms the last four or five years. Insects-- always a problem you never know what insects you going to have, what resistance problem you might have for that particular year. And the third thing that bothers me is regulatory or legislative issues that we have to contend with in agriculture today, that includes not only the farm bill but the things that we have to contend with with the EPA and other regulatory agencies, and we’ve had some weather, the climate has changed; it is changing.
Richard Coupe: I still think there’s people that don’t believe it but it is changing, we have to adapt to that.
Kenneth Hood: We, I mean and like I say I started to mention this-- but the wind, yeah we used, we’ve never had the winds like we’ve had the last three or four years, we get the same kind they get in Texas. You know they get the winds coming across Texas, that pattern is moving further to the east now and the droughts-- I mean last year we were dry, we went for months without a rain. It use to never do that in the Mississippi Delta. Right here at Perthshire in the curve of this river right here, if it rained anywhere in God’s world it always rained right here in this river, but it’s changed. It just goes east or west, north, or south, it does the “Perthshire spit.”
Richard Coupe: So Kenneth we’ve been working on your farm now for three or four years. So and you know we dig holes in your fields and we occupy space and get in your way. We really appreciate you doing that but why would you allow us to do that?
Kenneth Hood: Well the reason we allow you to do that is because I want to be a good steward of the land, I want to be a good steward of the water that we have available to us that we use. I wanna make sure that my land is left in that same good, clean fresh state for my grandchildren as well as my children and so that’s the reason I wanna know resistance problems, I mentioned that. What chemicals should I be using to do the best job; with not only weed control, but what am I supposed to be doing environmentally to help the future of the farm here?
Richard Coupe: Do you feel like you always get that information or?
Kenneth Hood: Well yeah.
Richard Coupe: Which ones the best one to use but then which ones also environmentally friendly or?
Kenneth Hood: Well sometimes, we get the information but it’s probably not as fast as I would like to receive it. Sometimes it takes it too long to get here, I mentioned resistant weeds, it’s all in timing to control resistant weeds so we need information faster than we get. That’s the reason I like to see you working here on our farm, is that I know you’re doing it, you’re measuring water quality, you’re measuring all these other things so you’ll have that first-hand information to help us make intelligent management decisions in the future.
Richard Coupe: So what would you if you had the ear of some policy makers what would be one or two things that you would really like them to understand and to know. About how hard it is, the work that you do?
Kenneth Hood: Well they need to understand what goes on in production agriculture; a lot of people today don’t understand production agriculture on what it actually takes on a day-to-day basis. You know they think you can just go out and make an application and plant protection application-- but that’s not all that there is to it. It may rain in 30 minutes, it may be too windy, you’ve got all of these factors that you’ve got to build into everything. So I have a problem sometimes with what goes on in that respect because they don’t have a full understanding of what it takes in the day-to-day operation to do a good job.
Richard Coupe: I don’t think anybody but farmers actually know that.
Kenneth Hood: Probably not, they probably don’t.
Richard Coupe: Let me ask you, so the change from cotton to these other crops, so the cotton you were using before was a dry-land cotton, did you irrigate much of it?
Kenneth Hood: We did irrigate about 30 percent of our cotton acres but as we’ve gone to a drier weather scenario, our weather’s changed in the last ten years so we’ve started adding more irrigation. We started first at putting pivot irrigation in; it was faster to put in. I could dedicated more of my money toward the pivot irrigation systems rather than the leveling or land forming practices and a pivot can water on rolling ground where if you’re going to do furrow irrigation and what I call precision irrigation you have to spend time and money to do that. And with our weather pattern changing we went to pivots first and now then we’ve got pivots on just about everything that is adaptable to a pivot.
And now then we are going back and taking some of those the pivots are getting some age on them and we’re doing precision land leveling now to be able to control our water better than we use to be able to when we tried to use furrow irrigation.
Richard Coupe: So what do you see the future for farmers.
Kenneth Hood: I see the future for farming is in the Mississippi Delta and I’ll qualify my thinking is that the good lord has blessed us with an ample water supply. I think we need to be very meticulous on how we protect that water supply and how we use our water. Look into the future to see what other technology I just mentioned going from dry land to pivots and now to more precision land leveling in our agriculture that’s where precision AG comes in now. You know we’ve models out there that will tell us two weeks ahead of time when our cotton, soybeans, or rice is going to go into water stress.
So we can start planning two weeks ahead of time or ten days ahead of time and know what to do rather than going out there and saying well it’s about time to irrigate and go turn the wells on. You may be two weeks too late, you may be three days too early so it just. So we’ve got that technology that’s out there, I would like to see more news and more research done on that to tell us these kinds of things.
Richard Coupe: So the important issues are like so how’s Mississippi State football gonna do this year.
Kenneth Hood: I hope they do real well, I hope they do real well. And I think with the recruiting they’ve done I think they’re gonna be pretty good I really do.
Richard Coupe: So are we going to win the Ole Miss game?
Kenneth Hood: Oh, we’re gonna win the Ole Miss game. We got to, we gotta win it. That’s like missing a rain you know.
Richard Coupe: It’s worse than missing a rain, can’t lose to Ole Miss. All right, thanks guys we appreciate it.
Kenneth Hood: Oh, okay.
[End of Audio]
Duration: 13 minutes
Thoughts From ACT Study Farmer Kenneth Hood
Claire Rose, Richard Coupe, Kenneth Hood
Title: Thoughts from ACT Study Farmers- Kenneth Hood
Claire Rose (USGS) and Richard Coupe (USGS) talk with Kenneth Hood about farming and Agricultural Chemical Transport (ACT) Study research done on his farm in the Mississippi Delta.
Location: Mississippi Delta, MS, USA
Date Taken: 8/13/2012
Video Producer: Douglas Harned, Claire Rose, Scott Dennis , USGS North Carolina Water-Science Center, USGS Mississippi Water-Science Center
Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.
Additional Video Credits:
Richard Coupe- Producer
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