“I was confronted with the necessity of either getting bigger or getting out of farming. Times were tough for agriculture in the ‘restructuring’ years of the 1980s, and a lot of people were going under or leaving farming.

“As places became available, I was fortunate to be able to get land from those who were getting out of farming. Now, you can hardly get land here; there’s a lot of competition for it, and when it becomes available it’s quite expensive.”

“About eight or nine years after I came back to the farm, my younger brother, John, was wanting to farm, too, so my father retired, the land was divided, and we set up separate operations. Mark and John began farming together, and Charles joined me here in this operation."

Charles Balducci, grew up at nearby Shelby, Miss., and came from a farming family, too.

“My father and older brother farmed,” he says, “and I farmed for 19 years before joining a die casting operation at Shelby. After I married Robert’s sister, Gina, he asked me to join him here in the farming operation, and we’ve been farming together since 1991.”

“It was a good move,” Agostinelli says. “Charles loves farming, and we work well together.”

They now have 3,700 acres in nine different farms, this year growing 2,000 acres of cotton, 850 acres of soybeans, 400 acres of corn, and 450 acres of peanuts. About 800 acres are owned, the rest rented.

They have a 10-year average for cotton of 1,250 pounds, about 180 bushels on corn, and 45 bushels on soybeans. They are also shareholders in the nearby Producers Gin of Belen.

Although Agostinelli’s heritage is steeped in cotton, which still constitutes the majority of the acreage, he says, “Corn is the best crop I’ve ever grown. With irrigation, it’s an easy crop to grow, and if weather cooperates, we can get really good yields."

They use both furrow and center pivot irrigation. “Cotton is 95 percent irrigated,” he says, “corn 100 percent, peanuts 90 percent, and soybeans 50 percent.”

Even though they’re new to peanut production, Agostinelli and Balducci agree that the crop appears to be a good fit for their operation, offering diversification and rotation benefits, along with the potential for a good return.

“It has been interesting to watch the crop develop,” Agostinelli says. “It’s a learning experience for us. Now, we’re just hoping for a good harvest.”