Head over to his “office” on any given day and you’ll find Mr. Wade Hodges hard at work. That’s because he’s doing what he loves – farming.
Deep roots in Bulloch County
Born and raised in the very area he farms today, his family roots are deep in Bulloch County. His dad, W.C.Hodges Jr., was born in the antebellum house up the road in 1918. Wade is actually the third in line of W.C. Hodges and his son makes for number four. The generations preceding him had a love of the land as well and were also farmers. His grandaddy farmed cotton, corn, and tobacco while raising hogs and cows.
From a young age, Wade took to agriculture and only ever wanted to follow in his family footsteps. He participated in FFA and 4-H, showed steers, and worked with his dad and granddad when he wasn’t in school. Laughing, Wade says, “It’s all I ever wanted to do. I went to ABAC for two days before I realized it wasn’t for me. Came right back home.”
In what would have been his “college years,” Wade spent time helping Tom Hendrix for about a year before moving along to help former state representative Bob Lane with his farming operations. Wade then managed Gerald Farms for 10 years and then made the transition to Blanchard Equipment, which is the John Deere dealer all the while maintaining his own acreage. “All I did was work.” The move to Blanchard Equipment helped recharge him after burning out on farming. But he didn’t stay out of it for long. Working at the John Deere place is something that has helped him stay engaged with other farmers in the community and the surrounding areas while also keeping up with the progress of technological advancements in the agriculture industry.
Today, Wade farms roughly 300 acres of corn, 700 acres of peanuts, 1,300 acres of cotton, and another 250 acres of soybeans. Willie Roberts, Paul Benton, and Ricky Hendrix join him in keeping up with the farming operations. “They’re kind of my backbone.”
With the equipment connections, does that mean Wade is constantly trading in for the best of the best? Not exactly. “I don’t necessarily have the latest and greatest equipment, but that doesn’t mean we’re unwilling to try new things. We just don’t go crazy with it.” Hodges said one thing that has helped considerably aside from the equipment is the irrigation that’s been put into place over the last ten years. He currently has about 25% of his land irrigated. That, of course, doesn’t distract from the need to “trust in the Good Lord” for rain.
Farming in itself has changed considerably since Wade jumped in the game in 1975 when he was still in high school. He grew corn and had a few hogs and since then, has dabbled in onions, watermelons, and other produce. What he’s doing now is a whole different ballgame as he tops 2,500 acres.
Nowadays, Wade works closely with the county extension office, now with Bill Tyson at the helm who took over after the longtime service of Wes Harris. He’s also a New Product Evaluator for Delta Pine.
As for the continued decline in farmers across Georgia and the southeast, price and output is one of the biggest contributors, Wade says. “What we’re paying for costs more, what we’re getting for stuff is less, and if we don’t produce, we don’t get anything, and then we’re going under.” The problem, he says, is that while the yields are up, farmers used to get more for less decades ago.
Personally, his worst year was 1986 when he lost a lot of beans because of flooding and damage to the crops, but 1980 and 1993 aren’t far behind on the list.
What about the possibility of quitting?
“I don’t really see myself retiring. I just think I’ll keep on rolling.” Wade does worry about who will pick up his farming operation when he’s out of the business, though at the ripe age of 54, he has some time before that day comes. Whether or not his children will takeover what he’s built still remains to be seen. W.C. Hodges IV is a communications major at Georgia Southern and his daughter, Amber Hodges, is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Biology and a B.B.A. in Real Estate.
“I like seeing everything come up and grow and I love the harvest.” Wade credits his ability to stay involved in the farming business through so many highs and lows because he’s easy going. “I don’t get worked up about much. If I’m worked up, you might need to worry.”
When offering advice to future farmers, Wade says you need to be humble, patient, and faithful. “You’ve got to believe in the good Lord.”
Wade Hodges was nominated as the November ‘Farm of the Month’ by Greg Sikes.