COVINGTON, Ga. - At an age when a lot of people are trying to plot their path in life, 23-year-old Newton County farmer Jacob Pope has his plotted, or planted if you will, as he works to raise the profile of agriculture in the county and keep up with the growing demand for food around the world.
“The global demand for food is growing and as a younger generation, we have to keep up,” he said. “So we are always trying to build and grow. We have way better equipment and more technology to keep up with the demand.”
Pope’s dedication to his profession paid off in 2017 when the 130 acres of corn he planted in the spring yielded a record crop for Newton County of 163 bushels an acre. He also planted 60 acres of sorghum, joining one other farmer in producing the crop in Newton County. Pope said sorghum is a good dry land crop.
“It produces good yields with very little rain,” he said.
While a lot of people may think that farming is a seasonal occupation, Pope said that is not the case.
“I start my year off in what we call ‘meeting season’ in Tifton at ABAC (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College),” he said. “The meetings are from anything about planters, to about seed depth, soil health, planting populations and everything in between.
“From about the end of January through the end of February into March we do a lot of planning and final preparations on the tractors and planters.”
He said after the last frost, when the soil temperature is 55 degrees and rising, he starts planting.
“Once we start, we roll,” he said, “I have planted until 3 in the morning to finish a field. And if something breaks down at dinner time, guess what? I don’t eat until it’s fixed. That’s just the way it is.”
Pope said it can take up to a month or month and a half to plant.
“We try to be done by the end of April. After we plant, that seed is growing every day,” he said. “After about three to eight days, it’s emerged from the ground and we count plants and spacing so we can assure we’ve got a good, even stand.”
Pope said after spraying for weeds and applying fertilizer, rain is crucial to a crop.
“Rain is very crucial, he said. “Sometimes the lack of a few inches is the difference between a good crop, or no crop at all.
“We have to keep up with the weather from start to finish. We spend so much time making the crop, when we do, we’re pretty proud of it. We love to take a seed and watch it grow and when it comes to fruition, it’s a good feeling, knowing it’s in the bin and it’s a good year.”
Pope said there are about five grain farmers in the county, but he and one other are the only two with just grain operations. He also cares about the county.
“I love Newton County,” he said. “I was raised here. I care about what happens in my community.”
With local farmers like Jacob Pope, agriculture in Newton County will be in good hands for a long, long time.