Town Crier News Staff
When W.J. "Jeter" Hall planted a few acres back in the 1940s in the Needham Community, he couldn't have imagined that his son and grandson would one day be farming over 4,500 acres from the same homestead. They farm land in both the Bay Community and Needham, which is located between Jonesboro and Lake City.
(Town Crier photo/Samantha Martin)
Not only has Russell Hall continued in his father's footsteps, but his son Terry Hall has come alongside him in the family operation. Russell's daughter Jill and her husband Kris Wolf are also a part of the business.
Russell said he didn't have plans to become a farmer at first.
"Back when I was a kid and chopping cotton I always said if I ever got off this road and off this farm I would never come back," he said with a laugh. "But, I never got off."
Following an 18-month tour of duty in Vietnam, Russell worked at AB Freight for 26 years before buying out his retiring father in 1974, the same year his son Terry was born. He and his wife Nancy raised their children on the farm and now live in the house his parents built.
While his dad had ambitions to pursue a career outside of the family business, Terry said he'd never wanted to do anything but farm.
"I've always farmed for as long as I can remember," Terry said. "After graduating high school, I decided not to go to college, against my mother's wishes, because I knew farming was my future."
Terry rented an additional 120 acres and continued to farm alongside his dad. And the farm has continued to grow and grow with the family now planting 2,200 acres of rice, 2,300 acres of beans and 1,600 acres of wheat.
Russell says the farm's acreage isn't the only thing that's changed over the years.
"Things are a lot more modern," Russell said. "We've gone from driving cabless tractors to tractors that practically drive themselves. It used to be unbearable out there in the summer, but now we've got tractors with air conditioners, radios and everything else."
Russell said all aspects of farming are more modern than they used to be.
"I don't know if that's always for the best, but that's the way it is," he said. "Now we farm more than we used to, but you have to make it."
But, Russell said, farming is something he loves.
"It's a good life," he said. "I'm just glad to be able to work every day."
Russell said a lot of the business aspects of being a local farmer have changed, especially when it comes to marketing.
"Marketing is one of the big decisions now," he said. "It used to be you knew what prices you would get for something when you sold it, but now it's a gamble."
Both father and son agree that marketing is an important aspect of the farm.
"It's a challenge marketing the crops because so many funds are being dumped into the commodity market right now because of the stock prices," Terry said. "It used to be that if the price of rice changed ten cents in one day it was a big deal and everyone was talking about it. Now it changes more than $1 at a time and that's normal."
It's a challenge, but the Halls are not ones to back down from a good challenge.
"It doesn't matter how efficient you are in planting and harvesting if you can't market your crop to get the prices you need," Terry said.
From new equipment to marketing changes, Terry said it's hard to imagine what farming will be like in the years to come.
"I have two sons and I hope they'll want to farm too," Terry said. "With all the changes I've seen, it's hard to imagine what things will be like then."
Terry and his wife Felicia's sons Haydon, seven, and Hanner, five, will surely be up to the challenge along with Sydney, Jill and Kris's two year old girl who is not to be left out when it comes to "boy stuff." She's already learning how to ride a tractor and can be seen cruising around the farm shop in her pink four-wheeler.
Whatever the future holds, Hall Farms certainly has reason to be proud of their accomplishments to date, including the prestigious title of 2008 Craighead County Farm Family of the Year.