Tracking down Chris Thompson is a difficult feat. That’s to be expected, though, considering he tends about 2,600 acres. He was nominated by the Brannen’s of Brannen Family Farms, and it was obvious he was a little hesitant about offering himself up for All On Georgia’s Farm of the Month. He is a humble man.
He tends the land of peanuts, cotton, and corn with his cousins, Eric Thompson and Bobby Dan Thompson, and as far as he knows, he’s the fourth generation of Thompson who farms in Bulloch County. His grandparents had about 600 acres while he was growing up, so he was always around agriculture. He loved the equipment and the land. His Uncle Bobby farmed the family land of peanuts, soybeans, and corn.
The land he owns today is a combination of land acquired from his father’s side, his mother’s side, and what he has purchased himself over the years. He also owns 1,200 acres in a partnership with one of his friends he broke into farming with, Greg Sikes.
When he graduated high school, he spent a little over a year working in Savannah before he came back to Statesboro to work for another family. He got more experience in cotton, corn, and peanuts and even a little tobacco. That lasted about five years before he and Greg started a custom farming operation for hire picking cotton on the land of others. It was a hit since peanuts and cotton are always ready at the same time, leaving many farmers in a lurch for human capital. In 2001, they decided to branch out and start with their own crops they were able to rent from another farmer who was calling it quits. They went 100% cotton.
A year after he started growing cotton, he saw his worst year. But he says that’s probably one of the best things that ever happened to him because it gave him insight on what he should do differently, and what makes farming so difficult. Luckily, he and Greg were still working the custom farming project, which made for a more stable income, which gave them a leg up.
They tapered off on the custom farming side as their own farm began to expand and by his late-twenties, he was a full-time farmer on his own land. After a few years, he started diversifying and added peanuts and eventually corn. A few times he’s planted wheat, but not consistently.
His best year was the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 when cotton prices were at historic highs. Technology has changed everything over the last six to eight years and without it, there would likely be fewer farmers in business, but it’s changed the dynamic of what and how you can farm. He’s adapted the best he can.
Chris and his wife Jamie, who have been married since 2000, have one little girl, Bo, who is just nine-years-old. But asking him what will come of his farming empire as she grows older makes him a little nervous. He says he can only hope she’ll marry a farmer and keep it going. If not, he would like it to stay in the family because in his eyes, farming is an endangered industry.
But what does it take to be a farmer, according to Chris? Patience, a willingness to look at what others have done and learn from them, and conscious to take care of the land.
The best thing about farming, he says, is being your best boss and making something out of the land. Growing something and changing the land fulfills him. He says if he could tell the community one thing about farming is that it isn’t always how it looks. A lot of people see fancy equipment and an expensive truck, but they don’t understand there are weeks at time that he leaves before the sun comes up and doesn’t go home until 11 p.m. Holidays and weekends are included, he misses time with his family, and it’s year round. But he loves it and can’t see himself doing anything else.
Chris Thompson nominated Wade McKelvin of Stilson for All On Georgia – Bulloch’s November ‘Farm of the Month.’ Wade is in operation with his son and Chris nominated him because he feels he’s a well-rounded man who works hard and does everything right. Every time.