When Trey Daniel, Brandon Rodgers and Jason Smith
entered Arkansas State University (ASU), the three
young men joined a fraternity and enjoyed the camaraderie
and support of being among a group of likeminded
people. After graduation, they went home to farm and soon
realized that quite a few of their fraternity brothers and other friends
they went to school with also chose some field of agriculture as their
occupation. Today, across southeast and central Arkansas, they all still
stay in touch, sharing information and experiences in their new
Tough Ground, Good Yields
Trey Daniel completed his tenth crop last year. His father Danny
Daniel farmed when Trey was growing up. Today, Danny still drives
a combine and is at the farm every day to offer advice. As for Trey,
he worked as a crop consultant for a year before an opportunity arose
for him to get into farming for himself.
“One of my customers offered to rent me 500 acres, so I went to
FSA, filled out the paperwork and received a loan,” he says. “They
helped me start farming, which was great. I now farm about 3,800 acres of rice, soybeans and some wheat in partnership with other
family members. This year, my wife and I purchased 355 acres,
which is a good start toward our long-term goal of owning 500 to 600
acres by the time we retire.
“As for my rice operation, I grow about 90 percent hybrids and the
rest is Jupiter, a medium grain,” he says. “In 2012, I planted XL723,
Clearfield XL729 and Clearfield XL745. I like the way the hybrids
yield, and if we have to irrigate beans or get short on water, the
hybrids will stay with us in the field and still produce.”
Daniel adds that the milling hasn’t been as good as the conventional
varieties, but he believes that it has gotten better over the years.
“I am still impressed with the hybrids,” he says. “We farm some
tough ground and make from 180 to 200 bushels per acre. I’m not a
rice miller, but after talking with people from different organizations,
I think the hybrids need to be binned separately and milled
separately, but the mills aren’t always in a position to do that. However,
the industry is currently working together to help improve our milling quality. We want the U.S. rice crop to again be the most
sought after rice.”
One of the main challenges that Daniel and other farmers face in
the area near Stuttgart is a water shortage, which creates an irrigation
issue. On the positive side, though, he says several EQIP projects
have been approved, and his landowners are going to build a couple
“The only way we can continue to grow rice is to utilize costshare
programs that allow us to have more irrigation because we
don’t have any groundwater,” he says. “That’s our insurance.”
Weed Control Challenges
After graduating from ASU, Brandon Rodgers began farming with
his father Jerry at Lodge Corner, about 15 miles south of Stuttgart.
After his father retired, Rodgers started farming on his own and now
has a 1,500-acre operation consisting of rice, corn and soybeans.
“I’m still in the process of buying my father out,” Rodgers says.
“But, we worked out a succession plan that spreads out the cost over
several years instead of my having to buy the equipment all at
The young Arkansas farmer grows
100 percent hybrid rice and has been for
“In 2012, I planted about 600 acres of
Clearfield XL745, and the yields were
really good,” Rodgers says. “It’s one of
the best years I’ve ever had.
“The milling quality of the hybrids is
a little lower than the conventionals I
used to grow, but not low enough to justify
not planting the hybrid and getting
the higher yield,” he says.
In the rice production arena, Rodgers
notes that one of the biggest problems he has to address involves
pigweeds. “They are becoming more and more of a problem every
year, especially on the levees,” Rodgers explains. “We have to use different
modes of action for burndown and work at controlling pigweed
in our rotational crops because we can’t kill it after we flood up
the rice. As far as the levees go, we just have to hand rogue the pigweeds
to get rid of them.”
Jason Smith’s farming experience has also been a family affair. His
grandfather John R. Smith and his father Jerry D. Smith farmed
together. When Jason graduated college, he and his brother-in-law
Chris Dickson went in as equal partners with Jason’s father and his
Today, Jason’s parents are moving into retirement, so Jason and
Chris are making most of the day-to-day decisions.
“We are farming 3,000 acres of mostly rice and soybeans along with
a few hundred acres of wheat near Stuttgart,” Smith says. “2012 was
our first year to grow all hybrids. We planted XL753, Clearfield
XL745 and Clearfield XL729. To me, the hybrids seem easier to cut
if they do go down. And, they have been good yielders for us. The
quality is not quite where the conventional varieties are, but I try to
make it up in bushels.”
To keep the farming operation running smoothly, he and Dickson
share the responsibilities.
“Chris pretty much takes care of all the fertilizer, and I pay the
bills,” Smith says. “He plants, I do the cutting, and he does the hauling. During the season, I take care of the water management on
half of the farm, and he takes care of the water on the other half.
Chris does all of the irrigation scheduling with our field man to keep
things simple instead of confusing.”
Arkansas Ratoon Crop
Another first for Smith in 2012 was fertilizing, growing and cutting
a ratoon, or second, crop of rice.
“I had a field of Clearfield XL745 that I entered in RiceTec’s
Ratoon Yield Challenge,” he says. “The day before we cut the first
crop on that field in August, we flew on 100 pounds of nitrogen. As
soon as I got through cutting it, I flooded it up one time, then after a
couple of months or so, drained it and cut it again at about 17 to 19
Smith says he had some other fields where the first crop was cut
later and, although they were not fertilized before the first cutting, they
did produce a second crop.
“On those fields, the moisture just kept getting higher and higher,
and the crop did not have enough time to finish before the frost,” he
says. “To try to ratoon crop this far north,
you have to catch the weather just right.”
Although not all of Smith’s ratoon fields
worked out last year, the fertilized field of
Clearfield XL745 cut 67 dry bushels per
acre on the ratoon crop, which put him in
second place for District 7 Southeast
Arkansas in the Ratoon Challenge contest.
First place for District 7 went to Scott and
Dean Meins who cut 76 dry bushels per acre
on a field of XP4523. Each first-place winner
received an ATV, and each second-place
winner received a shotgun.
In today’s environment, whether you
grow one crop of rice or two, rice farming, like any other type of
farming, has rewards as well as challenges. With this in mind, it’s
always encouraging to see young people picking up the reins of a
family farm or starting a farm of their own.
Besides all graduating from ASU, joining the same fraternity and
coming home to farm for a living, all three of these capable young men
– Trey, Brandon and Jason – will tell you that they love their families
and the farm life.
“None of us is doing this to get rich,” Daniel says. “But to us, it’s
a way of life, and we thank our landlords and God for providing this
opportunity. We intend to stay in it for the long haul.”
Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.