Randy Cooper attended the Monsanto field day in Union City, Tenn., to hear about next year’s soybean and corn varieties, their trait technologies, and if those in the know think dicamba will be labeled in 2019. After 42 years of farming, he knows good decisions still make or break any crop year.
He hangs his hat every night in a house located in an unincorporated community outside of Sharon, Tenn., called Sidonia. He has seen the good and the bad of farming. “I’ve known a number of good people who went broke farming, and it really wasn’t their fault,” says Cooper. “It was just bad luck — and unfortunately, that has a great deal to do with success or failure.”
A former owner of an Allis Chalmers dealership, he once had milk cows, but now farms corn, soybeans, and a little wheat just to appease some landowners. He has a good and long-standing relationship with a vital partner — his local banker.
Looking back, he’s never had a crop year that prevented him loading up the planter the next season. “I feel sorry for young farmers who are trying to get started in today’s farming business environment,” says Cooper. “You almost need to have ‘old money’ to get established because one bad year could do you in.”
The Important Things
Cooper saves a dollar where he can and quickly recognized the value of RTK and variable rate technologies. His son has a scouting business and they use drones to help make in-season decisions related to nutrients and pests.
“The days of being profitable by just busting your back are gone,” says Cooper. “Sure, you have some long days, but farming smart and taking advantage of proven technologies applicable to your operation just makes sense.”
Variable rating lime has always saved him money. His ability to fix his own equipment has always been advantageous to each year’s bottom line. He grids everything. He is all dryland. He knows the importance of following the market and pulling the trigger when the numbers are right.
“You can’t get greedy, but you have to be willing to make an educated decision,” says Cooper. “I would probably be a better farmer if I were a better long-range planner.”
He always tries to avoid going over the same bad tracks twice and strives to learn something every day.
“I come from a multi-generational farming family,” says Cooper. “I’m 60 years old and I’ll die on this farm — learning.”