Published on Sunday, June 18, 2017
Jessie Hobbs jokes he should call his place in Alabama "Total Chaos" instead of Hobbs Farms. He’s the fifth generation to care for the land where he now raises seven different commodities and his four children. Between ball games, community meetings, and farm work, life is never boring. It isn’t always easy to juggle it all, but Jessie has never dreamed of doing anything but farm.
“Mom says, from the time I knew what a tractor was, that's all I wanted to do. It's all I've ever known. It's all I ever want to know.” Jessie smiles reflecting on his earliest years as a farmer. Many milestones in his life are marked by seasons, crops, or accomplishments related to the farm. Jessie’s sixth birthday was particularly memorable.
“I had been really onto Dad about running the tractor by myself.” Jessie recalls in a determined tone. “I had watched him, you know, you gotta do fender time before you get seat time. The tractor was an older Allis-Chalmers. We've still got it. It was a '76 model.”
“And Dad said, 'If you can start it, you can disk this field.'” Jessie continues. “I said, 'I got this figured out. He thought I couldn't.' And really, I couldn't. I'm six years old, and I was smaller as a youngster. He knew he had that bet won. Well, I pulled the steering wheel down and I used physics. I said, 'Uh huh. I'm going to put both feet on the clutch, I'm going to catapult off the steering wheel, upperbody and jerk down, and right when I'd get my feet completely at the stiff position, I'm gonna hook my tail right under the seat. And when I pulled my butt up off the seat, the clutch threw me back in the seat.' I'd played it all out in my mind. I started it and his eyes got big. He said, 'Be careful.' To this day, I got a dent in my back from those years of starting those older tractors like that.”
As Jessie grew, so did his determination. He took every opportunity to learn more on the farm, even when that meant teaching himself. One day, everybody on the farm was cultivating. “That's when you had about four inches of wiggle room or you plowed up all your profits.” Jessie explains.
He’d been using four-row equipment, but Jessie wanted to move to the bigger, eight-row cultivator. His dad said he was too small, but that just motivated Jessie even more.
“One day, they had put one of the eight-row's on the tractor that I drove a lot and then they all went to lunch. I spotted it like, 'Mmmhmm. Now's my time.'” Jessie recalls with an ornery smile. “There's a hill right back here, it's a real rocky rough hill. The foreman got back first. Boy, he came out there. I can still see him standing there, holding that cigarette, watching me. He was looking to see if I plowed up any, around that curve on that rocky hill. He walked that whole field, reaching down, feeling. Then he smiled. That was approval, you know. And about time they all got back I said, 'Daddy, I can do it.' 'No you can't.' The foreman said, 'He can. He done plowed that hill back there.' 'He plowed that?' 'Yes, sir.' He said. 'What'd he plow up?' He said, 'He didn't plow up none of it.'”
Through the years, Jessie has made wonderful memories on the farm. He got the opportunity to go to college to study agriculture, then returned to the farm right after graduation and married his high school sweetheart. He likes to focus on the positive, but there have been plenty of challenges along the way.
"We've been fortunate to make some good crops, but I can remember in years past, I think '97 in particular, we planted all the cotton. The cotton was all destroyed, we planted soybeans, and then they didn't really do that well. But we tried. We did our part. And sometimes, I think that's all you can do. You just got to do your part. Never cut corners, always see it through. And that's what I tell my kids a lot of time is just because it's not going your way, don't mean you just give up. Cause a quitter never wins, a winner never quits."
In the tough times, family is especially important. “I forgot the exact year, but things weren't going our way. To hit the back door and hear the pitter patter of bare feet coming. They didn't care what happened that day. That was Dad.” Jessie beams. “Without the family, nothing is worth having. None of this is worth having.”
It means a lot to Jessie to raise his sons and daughters on the farm. “Nothing stands out as much as you've seen generations come and go, and pass the torch, and to know that the flame is still going.” He says. Jessie hopes somewhere along the way, one of his children has their interest sparked in becoming the sixth generation to care for the family farm.
He wants them to know they can make a difference, and that’s something to be proud of. “I think statistics say each farmer is feeding 150 families now. You know, you had your part in that. And now, do you beat yourself on the chest and brag? No. You just hope and pray you get to do it again next year.”
That’s why Jessie Hobbs farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Beck's Blog, Why I Farm, Beck's Hybrids, corn, soybeans, Wheat, Natalina Sents, Why I Farm Roadtrip, Cotton, Canola, Hobbs Farms, Alabama