“He says the arrangement with Henry Goodrich was a different kind of give and take. He wanted us to do some things one way and we wanted to do them a different way, but there was never any problem of any kind in working those issue out,” Rogers recalls.

“We knew we would put cotton on most of the land and that was okay with Henry. He wanted us to leave his peanut rotation in place, and that fit well into our plans, so we just worked out what we needed to and everything just kind of fell into place,” Rogers explains.

The Virginia farmer says farming Goodrich’s land didn’t require them to buy any new equipment or really change much of anything they were already doing. The farms are fairly close together, so they had few logistic problems.

“Trust is always an issue in any relationship or partnership. When you agree to a farming partnership, like I said, you better pick your partners well,” Rogers says.

With Goodrich, Rogers says trust was never an issue.  Rogers and Goodrich’s father were long-time friends, having co-owned a tractor and participated in tractor pulls, when such events were just getting started. Family and farming obligations took Rogers away from the tractor-pull arena, but he and Goodrich’s father remained close friends, until Mr. Goodrich’s death.

The Rogers and Goodrich did have a formal legal document, but it was more of a legal safety net in case something unexpected happened to any of the parties involved.

“If we had known my son and I would remain healthy and active and Henry would have come home safe and sound and be ready to farm after two cropping seasons, a formal hand-shake would have been fine,” Rogers says.

“I think Henry had a strong sense of duty — he felt like he needed to go to Afghanistan and help with the farming unit there. It was a hardship on his family, as it is with any soldier who has to go overseas, and my son and I are proud we could help him leave without too much worry about his farming operation.

“Financially, I think it worked out fine for Henry and it certainly worked well for us. Farming his land gave us more land and gave us some flexibility to do some things on our farm and in our farming partnership with Brent,”, Rogers concludes.

“I’m turning more and more of the operation of our farm over to my son (Paul Rogers III), and he did most of the farming on Henry’s land. Another benefit from our agreement is that my son and Henry became much closer, and that will be important once Henry starts farming again next spring,” he adds.

In the mid-1990s, Rogers went into a partnership with Brent Lowe in large part to be able to justify large capital expenses on equipment that it took to get into the cotton business. They farm two farms together, roughly 700 acres.

A few years later Roger’s son joined the farming operation as did Lowe’s son Clay. Farming together allows them to share equipment, especially in their cotton operation. It also allows them to share labor, which is becoming both extremely expensive and difficult to find in southeast Virginia.

“Finding a good partner has allowed both of us to expand our overall farming operation. It allows us to take advantage of scale of operation. In the farming business today, a small family farm competing with larger, diversified farms is like a mom and pop grocery story competing with one of the big grocery store chains, Rogers says.

“It takes a special situation, like Henry and his military situation, to farm 400 acres and make a living for a family. It’s sad, but it seems like the days of small, one-person farming operations are numbered,” he adds.

rroberson@farmpress.com