Malone- For the past 10 years, Larry Ford, owner and operator of Ford Farms, has been working with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agriculture Services (IFAS) on a crop rotation study. The results showed ways to not only reduce costs, but also increase crop yields.
"I enjoy farming- I love farming" Ford said. "I've done it for 40 plus years. You know, every year is a new year and I look at it with much enthusiasm."
Ford's passion for planting led him to the discovery of a method that would ultimately better the business. Cotton and peanuts have been a long time cash crop for the area. By incorporating Bahia grass into the crop rotation, Ford's results showed an increase in yields and decrease in costs.
"We have the Bahia grass in rotation with cotton. We have the grass for 2 years and then burn it down. And then, follow that with peanuts, and then cotton, and then go back to the Bahia" he explained.
And the cost cuts were spread across the board. Ford told us, "In conventional farming we will put out about an inch of water ever four to five days. With the sod based, we can go seven to eight days."
But the savings didn't stop there. Ford explained, "The organic matter that's in the soil of the Bahia grass- there's enough fertilizer there that generally on peanuts, we do not fertilize directly. We use residual fertility- fertilizer we put out the year before, and so as far as the cost, you eliminate that expense... It cuts your cost by about 50% what you would normally be spending on irrigation, diesel fuel or for electricity either one."
For his work, IFAS awarded Ford the "Innovator of the Year" award.
"It makes you feel good to know that you've done something that cannot only help yourself, but help others- that's what life is all about" Ford said of the recognition. "Being open to relate what you're doing and use it to make other farmer's operations more profitable, that's what its all about."