Two peanut farmers are among the many 2023 state winners for the Sunbelt Ag Expo’s Southeastern Farmer of the Year, a tradition for more than 33 years. Let’s meet these two outstanding farmers.
Henry ‘Bart’ Davis Jr.
2023 Georgia Farmer Of The Year
Bart Davis, of Doerun, grew up on his parents’ farm of around 500 acres that had a small herd of mother cows and a hog operation. While growing up, he planned to farm alongside his father, but the untimely passing of both parents meant that he had to take over the operation just before his high school graduation.
Since then, the operation has grown to 4,975 crop acres, 3,775 of which are rented and the remainder owned. Initially, Davis grew cotton, peanuts, corn, beans and wheat, alongside raising livestock. In the 1990s, when cotton largely returned to the area, he shifted his focus to cotton and peanuts.
Davis’s wife, Paula, who grew up nearby and attended the same high school, looks after the family, the house, the grounds, and runs errands as needed. The couple has three children: Henry Bart (“Trey”) Davis, III; Jedd A. Davis; and Lakyn Davis Buckner. Today, all three are managing partners of Davis Family Farms and Davis Cattle Farms.
Over time, the farms have channeled their energy into the seedstock industry focusing on genetics that thrive in the warm, humid Southeastern United States. Today the Davises raise purebred Angus and Hereford stock along with elite F1 commercials. They also grow dry and irrigated cotton, irrigated corn and dry and irrigated peanuts.
Crop yields are as follows: 2,539 acres of irrigated cotton yielding 1,325 pounds per acre; 434 acres of dry cotton yielding 1,215 pounds per acre; 1,461 acres of irrigated peanuts yielding 5,325 pounds per acre; 260 acres of dry peanuts yielding 5,150 pounds per acre; and 304 acres of irrigated corn yielding 235 bushels per acre. The cow/calf operation on Davis Cattle Farms has 325 breeding age females.
As for marketing, Davis says, “Our operation contracts directly with OLAM Peanut to grow 100% of our peanuts for seed. We’ve been working together over 10 years, and the relationship allows us to capture a significant premium for our peanuts. We also have an intricate system of forward contracting, using futures and options and the Revenue Protection aspect of Federal Crop Insurance to manage risks and market our cotton and corn.”
Davis is looking toward future retail-level cotton sales where, he said, “A customer can identify where the fiber contained in their finished product originated and know its story from start to finish (the ‘dirt to shirt’ concept).” To date, Davis Family Farms has accomplished this on a small scale, selling cotton directly to J. Crew for an upcoming project.
Davis’ family has also invested in two local businesses that have a direct correlation to the local farming industry. In the mid-2000s, along with a group of other local growers, they purchased Doerun Peanut Co. to be more vertically integrated. Today, Doerun Peanut Co. buys between 25,000 and 30,000 tons annually, enabling Davis to generate additional income, adding to the bottom line.
The second investment, made with a group of local business people, was to bring a community bank back to the Moultrie area. Their goal is to offer true community banking to Colquitt County and surrounding communities. “While it’s still in its infancy, we are excited about the opportunities it will bring to our local economy,” he says.
For the past 15 years, Davis Family Farms has been implementing precision ag by integrating information technology into processes that constantly measure, observe and respond to the needs of the soil and crops.
Davis says, “It ensures that our fields are receiving exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity. This method also enables us to sustain and protect the environment by optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources.”
Jeremy M. Kichler, County Extension Coordinator in Colquitt County, who nominated Davis, says, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mr. Bart Davis over the past nine years. He’s always been a supporter of Extension and has cooperated on countless on-farm demonstrations and field trials. The data generated from these have impacted growers both locally and regionally. This award could not have gone to a more deserving family farm operation.”
Arkansas Farmer Of The Year
Cobb Farms of Lake City is a partnership enterprise that began over 50 years ago. Today, on a total of 4,500 acres (2,500 rented and 2,000 owned), it grows row crops, produce and show pigs. Three entities make up the partnership: 1) Steve Cobb and Family is a leading show-pig operation that produces 1,000+ show pigs a year as well as breeding stock for club pig production. 2) Cane Island Farms oversees the row crops of corn, cotton and peanuts. 3) The Cane Island Produce branch grows vegetables, specializing in year-round greenhouse tomatoes.
In addition, Circle L Farms handles all of Cane Island Farm’s trucking needs as well as Steve Cobb and Family’s grain hauling. The company runs eight trucks daily and helps out local brokers as well.
Cobb says, “I was born on a subsistence farm where my parents owned 40 acres given to my mother by her father. Over time they rented another 200 acres.
Knowing What’s Important
Cobb married his wife Terri in 1977, and she had a 32-year career as a second-grade teacher.
Cobb says, “One of the biggest joys of my life is that she and I live on that same farm where we raised our three children, Jarrett, Aaron and Leslie. Our eight grandchildren are around every week, running and playing on the same land.”
The Cobb partnership’s crop yields are as follows: 1,800 acres of irrigated corn yielding 210 bushes per acre; 2,599 acres of irrigated cotton yielding 1,300 pounds per acre; 101 acres of irrigated peanuts yielding 2.5 tons per acre; and greenhouse tomatoes yielding 70 pounds per plant x 200 plants. In addition, the show pig business produces 1000+ show pigs a year. They have set a number of records in show pig and boar sales and have successfully marketed winning show pigs across more than 40 states through eight annual online auctions at showpig.com.
Cane Island Farms’ cotton is ginned at Southland Gin in Lake City and is marketed through Olam Agri. They also grow non-GMO corn for Ozark Mountain Poultry of George’s Chicken.
Peanuts are marketed through Birdsong Peanuts. The farm has plans to build a feed warehouse to improve efficiency and quality of feed making. Designs are in the works for an off-site show pig fitting facility as well.
As for Cane Island Farms Partnership, a huge disaster struck in October of 2014, when a terrible hailstorm hit just days before harvest. Owens recalled, “That storm took out 75% of our cotton crop. The same year, our grain brokerage filed for bankruptcy resulting in a total loss of our corn crop. It was a year full of pain as we lost one of our most beloved employees, Glen Eaton, in a tragic accident. We simply came to a full stop and started reevaluating how to go forward.”
Cotton Disaster Leads To Peanuts
That’s when the farms added peanuts to their rotation, a risky move that paid dividends and
enabled the partnership to remain competitive. Owens said, “The peanuts also helped us increase yields on our cotton on the years following the peanut crop.”
On a more personal note, in 2010, one of Cobb’s granddaughters, Scout Lyerly, was just two years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system. Cobb says, “This illness taught each of us more valuable life lessons than we can ever list. We grew to cherish each other more every single day and thank the Lord for his goodness in bringing Scout through that ordeal. She’s now a very lively 14-year-old teenager.
We continue to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for their wonderful care.”
As for lessons learned from farming, Cobb says, “In a practical sense, you have to be intense in your work ethic and progressive. Change has been so phenomenal and fast during my lifetime that it’s almost overwhelming. We’ve gone in a few short generations from small subsistence farms to large commercial enterprises. So, it’s important to keep up the pace and stay open to innovative techniques, equipment and ideas.”
Justin R. Ladd, Senior Financial Officer for Farm Credit Mid-America, nominated Steve Cobb to be the Arkansas Farmer of the Year.
He says, “At any national livestock show or state fair livestock show in the United States, Steve Cobb and his family are recognized as industry leaders. He’s also well-respected locally because he’s done so much for the surrounding community.
“They’ve spent countless hours giving back to the local FFA and 4-H Clubs and have raised money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. It’s truly an impressive extended family partnership with a track record of excellent farming, integrity and generosity.” PG
Since its inception in 1990, the Sunbelt Expo’s Southeastern Farmer of the Year award program has evolved into the most prestigious honor in the southeast and nation with 286 outstanding agribusiness leaders being honored for excellence in agriculture. For more information, visit www.sunbeltexpo.com/foty.