What is in this article?:
- Marc Shannon: Becoming a farmer one step at a time
- Giving the next generation 'a leg up"
- Record rainfall didn't wash it away
- Marc Shannon, 24, wants to farm, but his second serious year at it came with record to near-record rainfall for extreme south Georgia.
- "Out of any time in my life, though, right now I feel good about the opportunities for a young person who doesn’t mind working hard going into production agriculture," said Wes, Marc's father.
MARC SHANNON'S second serious year of farming was met with record rainfall that for most of the year washed under his peanut field here in Lowndes County, Ga., but it taught him a real-life lesson to keep moving forward with.
Giving the next generation 'a leg up"
Shannon’s father, Wes, 53, is a well-known Georgia peanut farmer who has served in state and national peanut advisory positions, including the National Peanut Board. Marc admits he has a good leg up on getting started: the kind of mentor and help a young farmer pretty much has to have these days to get started and to make it work.
The Shannon’s are in a position faced by much of the U.S. farming community. The average age of an American farmer is going on 60. In the next two decades, though, more than half of the farm land in the country is predicted to switch hands, either to the next in-family farm generation or to some other entity.
Wes’s father, Earl, who is 78 now, farmed on the side, but his main job was working on the local land-grant experiment station. With Earl’s help in the beginning and “a lot of people being really good to me and fair,” Wes said, he was married, farming full time and settling into a house by 25.
The Shannon operation isn’t big, roughly 1,000 acres, with only 600 of that cultivated crop acreage. The rest is in timber, hay or pasture.
“There are some ways we can stretch the land we have like with double-cropping with some higher-value crops,” Wes said. “But by and large, we have to expand the operation acreage wise for Marc to come in.”
That’s why Marc is willing to travel an hour and a half to rent and work a good field.
Wes said for much of Marc’s life he discouraged him from going into farming, referring to the ugly times, such as the late 1990s and early 2000s where even good farmers didn’t make it, and the times when Wes himself saw too many “What can you do” moments.
“And Marc saw that,” Wes said. “But (farming) is what he wants to do now. Out of any time in my life, though, right now I feel good about the opportunities for a young person who doesn’t mind working hard going into production agriculture at this time.”
The Shannons look to keep farming in the family.
Marc farms in partnership with his father now, splitting labor and equipment, and that’s the way he wants it. But he’s on his own and making decisions, too, learning and living with them. Got a serious girlfriend, too, and a place to live on his own: a glorified Man Cave maybe, but it’s working for now.
Before giving farming a serious try, Marc went to the local junior college and worked for a local tractor implement manufacturer, thinking about becoming an engineer. Fine work, but he realized he wanted to farm. He’s still working his way through college to have something to fall back on.
“I tell him now, ‘Don’t get in too deep too soon. You have to do enough to make a living, but you don’t need new equipment all the time. Be careful how much you spend on rent or you can get caught up with too much in inputs and rent and you can work and end up not make anything,’” Wes said.