Data Drives Farm Decisions

Georgia’s Farmer of the Year, John McCormick, is known for using innovative production practices.

Georgia Farmer of the Year John McCormick (left) examines a field with Screven County Extension coordinator Ray Hicks.

Georgia Farmer of the Year John McCormick (left) examines a field with Screven
County Extension coordinator Ray Hicks.

All successful farmers have the curiosity of a scientist in them. For John McCormick, Georgia’s 2016 Farmer of the Year, that curiosity has helped make his farm one of the most successful in the state.

Every year, McCormick devotes part of his 1,000-acre row-crop operation near Sylvania, Ga., in Screven County to an experiment. A change in peanut row spacing this year, a new variety next year – each year he works to make his operation a little bit more efficient.

Always A Goal In Mind

Sometimes the experiments work and sometimes they don’t, but in total, they’ve helped him make the most of his land, and his progressive approach has earned him the recognition of Georgia’s farming community.

“I didn’t know it all, I still don’t and I never will,” says McCormick, who’s been farming for 40 years. “If you wake up in the morning and you don’t have a goal, that’s when you’re in trouble.”
McCormick’s family includes, his wife, Paula, and their four sons and their families. In late October, he and his family would find out who was selected as the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. McCormick was nominated by Ray Hicks, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Screven County agent.

What Works Best Here?

McCormick’s goal has always been to keep his farm going and profitable and to pass that farm to his four sons, one of whom – Josh McCormick – works with his father growing cotton, peanuts, soybeans and corn.

Over the years, McCormick has built his farming career by overcoming those challenging situations. He uses global positioning systems and plants soil-building cover crops. Currently, he and Josh are working to maximize the production of the row-crop land by using variable-rate irrigation and fertility monitoring equipment.

“We’re going to see what works best on this farm because it may be different just 30 miles down the road,” he says. “We need to pick the products that are going to work for us.”
Some of the other changes McCormick has made to improve yield and production include the following:

Improved corn and soybean yields by switching from 36- to 30-inch rows
Narrowed his peanut rows from 36 to 30 inches and is evaluating 30-inch rows for cotton
Improved soil nutrition by using variable-rate lime and fertilizer applications
Reduced his use of fuel, lime, fertilizer and pesticides with guidance systems and variable-rate technology

Used on-farm trials for information on soybean and corn variety selection
Planted cover crops such as black oats, large-root daikon radish and ryegrass to improve soil organic matter.

McCormick has worked with his Extension agent, Ray Hicks, on many of the research projects over the years, which is what led to his nomination of the successful producer. “John is one of my very progressive farmers,” Hicks says. “He is always looking at what will be efficient and profitable for his operation. He looks to UGA research for new ideas. It is an honor to have him as one of my producers in Screven County and to see him recognized for his practices.”

Although the recognition is nice, McCormick farms because he loves the land and nature and for all the challenges farming brings each day. As he says, “Each day is different and situations arise that must be addressed in order to achieve success.”

Portions of this article and photo by Merritt Melancon, news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.