Larry Williams

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"My favorite thing about my wife is that she's so understanding with the amount of hours and time I have to spend on the farm."

AGE: 53

HOMETOWN: Born in Brinkley, AR– 50 miles outside of Memphis and 50 miles from Little Rock

FARM TYPE / CROPS: Rice, wheat, soybeans and corn

FARM LOCATION: Jones, LA


FAVORITES:

  • Music: I like rock & roll — especially the '60s and '70s like Jimmy Hendrix. Also love ALABAMA and Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). But mostly country music on the radio.
  • Food: Love seafood, shrimp — anything that swims in the water. Then comes steak.
  • Drinks: Don’t drink alcohol. My favorite is Diet Coke, for breakfast and supper — I get cranky and in a bad mood if I don’t get it.
  • Blue Jeans: My favorite two is Tommy Hilfiger (but they're hard to find here) and then second is Carhartt, sold at hardware stores for the old-timers like me!
  • Thing to do AFTER work: To relax, I like to enjoy reading the newspaper and/or Progressive Farmer, but I’m addicted to the Weather Channel — watch it all the time, fall asleep to it.
  • Mantra: There’s always a time when it doesn’t seem like nothing is going right. For a couple of hours when the equipment breaks down, we just gotta let the rough side drag and just keep on keepin’ on.

How did you get into farming?

I’m a 4th generation farmer and watched my dad, uncle all farm. When I graduated from high school and college, I was farming with my sister and her husband in Lake Charles, LA. Something that’s just in your blood. I’ve always liked being outdoors and in the dirt.

What do you think a big MISCONCEPTION is about farming?

Farming is like any business. You have certain people that live high on the hog and that brag and show off what they have, like with any business. I think society sees some of the larger farm corporations that seem to have everything, but I think that general public looks at farmers as wealthy people that have no risk. When, in fact, they have all the risk.

Every farmer puts his whole life on the line — every year is a new beginning and a new end. It’s a big gamble, you put everything you have into it and you always have the hopes that you’ll recover what you have and a profit and we’ll be able to go again the next year. They don’t see the hard hours put in. If I got paid by the hour I’d be paid less than minimum wage sometimes. We have to turn around and invest the money back in the land and equipment or you’ll end up with nothing.

What's your relationship status?

Married and in a great relationship. My favorite thing about my wife is that she’s so understanding with the amount of hours and time I have to spend on the farm. And then when we’re together she makes sure the time is meaningful. She goes out of her way to make it special, and an enjoyable time. We both work long hours, and she has a lot of patience with me.

Do you have children?

I have 9 ranging from 20 to 30 years old. I have 6 boys and 3 daughters.

How many are involved in farming?

5 are involved in farming daily operations. All of them aren’t because my daughter is in Americorp and I have 2 sons in the US Marines, and they will return to the farm after serving for the government. One passed away.

Where is the farthest you have traveled? Where would you like to go?

Hawaii twice. I want to go to Brazil, like the US used to be — making it soybeans, with some of the world's largest farms and see how they’ve farmed and adapted over the years.

What is your attitude about money?

I’m for sure not a greedy person, and I like money to be able to get things to accomplish the dreams that I have in life but I’ve done without money. Born very poor, and then I’ve had money and been very successful at times, and then Mother Nature would take it away and I’d be back to square one. So I look at money being something that’s not the most important thing in life. It would be closer to the bottom of the list, the older that I’ve gotten, versus at the top of my list.

If you could meet a few famous people, dead or alive, who would they be?

Clint Eastwood. I’d like to sit down or ride around and talk to him for a day. Marilyn Monroe — I’d want to know why, when so pretty and with so much going on, would she get to the point where things could go so bad when they could have been so good.

What do you farm? How many acres? Are you happy with it?

My family and I together farm about 7,500 acres. As far as crop mix, which changes each year, we farm about 4,000 acres of corn, and about 2,000 acres of wheat and about 1 thousand acres of soybeans. I like the mix and being diversified. It always helps the ground, making a better crop following a different crop every year. Fine planting a crop for 2 years or so but eventually it’s better to rotate.

What was the HARDEST part getting started?

When I was first getting started the hardest part was finding someone that believed in you enough to loan you the money. That was the hardest thing starting out — being able to find a lending institution to take a chance on you.

And then trying to stay in business. There were no safety nets in farming to keep you from going out of business in the early '70s and ‘80s. No help from the government — no loans and no type of crop insurance. You were at the mercy of planting your seed. If you didn’t harvest, you didn’t get paid. The banks would carry a debt over time, but if you had a bad year it would take several years to pay back the debt from a bad year. So, it was hard to be able to secure a crop loan.

What SURPRISED you about farming?

Every year is completely different. What works this year will totally work differently the next year. All relates to the environment, the weather. You can’t do the exact same thing — plant the seed the same depth, etc. Every year is different.

What do you LOVE about it?

I just like being able to work outdoors in the environment. My favorite thing is to smell the dirt, watch it rain, see things grow and at harvest time you know you’ve accomplished something and are helping feed the world. You haven’t wasted a year of your time.

Do you wear sunscreen?

No, I don’t and I should. I just started wearing a hat and had a doctor’s check-up and the doctor said "You’ve spent all these years in the sun, should’ve worn a hat and sunscreen years ago." Always had that farmer’s tan — wind and sun just part of being outdoors. Never thought of the problems associated with it. No skin cancer yet — praise the lord.

TELL US ABOUT A DAY ON THE FARM: When does your day start and end?

During planting and harvest from 5:30 in the mornin' to 10 at night. Regular seasonal work is from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 at night. We only work 7 days a week during planting and harvest time. The in-between times, weekends are off.

What makes you HAPPY in a day on the farm?

Usually plan the night before what I’m going to do the next day, so when things work out and we got the things done as planned and as I’d dreamed, then I feel great and mission accomplished. Especially if not too many repairs were needed during the day. Also, when you don’t have breakdowns... and not the mental kind, the equipment kind!

What makes you FRUSTRATED in a day on the farm?

Too much rain, too wet and you can’t work — just so many things to do and you can’t seem to get to where you need to be. So Mother Nature frustrates the most.

What's the BEST part of a day?

I like sunset. You look back at what you’ve accomplished during the day and it’s just a beautiful time of day.

What's the WORST part of a day?

High noon. It's always the hottest and hungry and then you eat and then you don’t feel like working again! Or it’s too hot to eat!

Any lessons learned on the farm?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you can never count your money until you have the crop at the elevator AND get paid. Just because you get it to the elevator, it doesn’t always mean you’re going to get paid! In the early ‘80s, they stole the crops that were in the elevator. I and other farmers took grain to elevator — they sold the crops, kept the money and we received nothing. So the moral is don’t count your money until it’s actually sold, and you've the check in your hand, and it’s a good check. Two kinds of checks — good and bad.

Do you have any advice for fellow farmers?

Life is too short to not include your family in the farming business. I know that it’s very difficult, but often some of my friends don’t have their kids farming with them. They’ll say they don’t get along well enough. Family is about bending and sometimes even to the point of breaking, but family is the most important thing and should be to anyone in anybody’s life. If they don’t have their family — children, grandkids — involved, they need to work out something so that could happen.

Anything to say to those who aren’t farmers?

To the people that aren’t farmers, we really take our food for granted because our grocery stores are full. But with this past drought that we had in the Midwest, this really should be an eye-opener for people. We just can’t take things in life for granted. Two of those droughts in a year could really impact the food with a short supply of food, even in the US. We look at the US as being a prosperous country but if you can’t grow the crops to feed the animals and then you have to slaughter all the animals in one year, it’s just a problem. How people wait in line in other countries to eat, we just really take this for granted that we’re going to have it every time.

What would you like those who have never farmed to know about farming?

Most important thing is that farmers are taking care of the land. The land is a natural resource and having the land is something that you can’t replace. That’s why there are certain farm practices in place that we all abide by, and farming is one of the few businesses that’s probably the most friendly to the world, as far as a business and when it comes to taking care of the world that we live in today. A piece of farmland that’s been farmed has improved, not become a wasteland. But farming land will always create and be a good natural resource.

Where do you think you'll be in 5 or 10 years?

I will still be on the farm, farming until the day I die, and that is what I’d like to do.

If you weren't a farmer, what else would you like to have been?

Always felt like I was a good leader, I would have liked to been a football coach.



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