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• With today’s high input costs, Todd Lewis says, high yields are a must, but being able to produce good yields and at the same time make the land better for future generations through sound conservation programs, is his long-range vision.
HIGH INPUT COSTS make high yields critical to profitability and sustainability says North Carolina grower Todd Lewis.
Todd Lewis has long history with irrigation — some of it magic and some of it tragic — but water is now an essential part of his efforts to reduce input costs, improve efficiency and further develop conservation on his large farming operation near Edenton, N.C.
Perhaps best known for winning peanut yield awards in a part of the state where high yields are common, his is a highly diversified operation that includes cotton, corn, soybeans and peanuts. In 2008, he won the coveted Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award and notes that irrigation was a big part of his farm management.
“We installed our first pivot in 1982,” he says, “and before we ever ran a drop of water through it, a tornado came across our farm and tore it to pieces. It looked like a field of steel spaghetti.”
Insurance didn’t cover the loss and his irrigation dealer was new at the time and didn’t have any way to cover the loss either. Together, the dealer and Lindsay (the system producer) worked with Lewis on a way to rebuild the pivot. It’s still operational on his farm today and he still buys pivots from the same dealer. In subsequent years, the dealer has been “most helpful in putting their engineering experience to use in designing the irrigation systems we now have,” Lewis says.
He now has 10 pivots on his home farm and several more on farms he rents in other parts of Gates County. “We have two outstanding irrigation dealers in our area — the Lindsay dealer we’ve worked with for so long and a Valley Irrigation dealer. We have pivots from both companies and both work well.”
Lewis now constructs the irrigation systems with his own work crew during the off season. “The company basically drops the system off at our farm, and we put it together. Having two good dealers works well; they each do things a little differently and have different ideas about how to make things better on our farm. I like having that diversity of ideas to help us when we run into challenges constructing or operating our systems.”