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• As a result of his success as a tobacco and row crop farmer, Elliott has been selected as the 2011 South Carolina winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
Grows his own transplants
He grows his own tobacco transplants in three 200-foot-long greenhouses. Most of the time, he uses all of his transplants in his own fields, but for this year’s crop, he obtained excellent seed germination. As a result, he had enough transplants left over for 20 acres that he sold to other farmers.
He uses a machine to mechanize the seeding of the tobacco into the greenhouse trays, and says the tobacco is ready for transplanting eight weeks after seeding.
“One my challenges was finding enough land to rent,” he says.
“We have been able to expand by buying land.” One farm he recently bought will get new drain tile. He adds that installing drainage was not feasible on land he rented.
Under the old quota system, tobacco profitability was a challenge. “Now that quotas have been eliminated, we contract with tobacco companies,” he explains.
“We have increased our tobacco acreage, and we’re making profits because they’re buying more of our tobacco.”
In 2006, he bought a new shed and tobacco baling system that centralized post-harvest tobacco handling while also eliminating stress and saving on labor expenses.
Elliott currently plans to build additional grain storage. “This will allow us to market our corn, soybeans and wheat at different times of the year, and for better prices,” he explains.
He grew up on a tobacco farm, drove tractors when he was eight years old and a few years later he harvested tobacco.
“I was right handed, so I cropped tobacco on one side of the row, and my cousin who was left handed cropped tobacco on the other side of the row,” he recalls. “I started farming with my dad after graduating from high school and attending technical college for one year.
“My wife Joni and I took over her dad’s farming operation in 1988 after a tragic car accident took the lives of both her mother and her father.”
One of his goals is to protect his land to benefit future generations. “We have less soil erosion, less soil runoff and better water quality because I’ve built grassed waterways and started using strip-tillage planting,” he says.