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Farming genes strong in Tennessee farm familyFarming genes strong in Tennessee farm family

Agriculture trumps nuclear engineering for young Tennessee farmer.

Ron Smith

June 18, 2020

2 Min Read
David Shell likes the opportunity to do different things throughout the year instead of the same repetitive tasks.Ron Smith

Agriculture roots run deep for Joe Shell. The original farm and homeplace in Carter County, Tenn., is just nine years short of Tennessee Century Farm status. He's now raising soybeans, corn, wheat, hay and cattle next door in Washington County.

He's expanded over the years, making room for his son, David, 32, who chose farming over opportunities he could have pursued with a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee.

"From 2009 to 2012, the farm doubled in size," Joe says. "David decided, with the farm doubling and with the opportunity to grow even more, he would enjoy farming and hold off on a job with his degree at that time."

"I like the ability to go through the year being responsible for my own crops and cows," David says. "I like being part of multiple industries — straw, cattle, and grain."

He likes the opportunity to do different things throughout the year instead of the same repetitive tasks.

"That’s a big reason he decided to farm in 2012. He loves operating the equipment, handling cattle, and being the boss of his own enterprise," Joe says.

David came back at an opportune time. "Every aspect of farming at that time was a homerun. Feeder calves were bringing $1,000 or more apiece; corn was over $6 a bushel; beans were over $12, and tobacco was still a solid income," Joe says.

Related:Markets, weather, not COVID-19, hamper farm work

It was a good fit for David and an opportunity to continue the legacy. "David always tagged along since he was a kid, Joe says. "He started working about the time he was 14. He started full time in 2012, when he was 24."

"If there's anything I learned since graduating in 2012, it's that you never know what tomorrow brings," David says.

He says he hopes to farm for many years, but "if things get bad off, I can get a very good job with this degree. That's a relief and a blessing."

The ag influence also inspires Joe's daughter, Julia, 26, who graduated from the University of Arkansas with an agriculture degree and works for Tennessee Farmers Co-op, La Vergne, Tenn. "She works at home about half the time and travels statewide the other half," Joe says.

Joe's wife, Lisa, runs her own seeding business.

Read more about:

Century Farm

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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