Farming is a difficult feat at any age, but doing it while you’re in school is an even tougher task. Candler County resident Rooks Bird tends his 150 acres with the help of his dad, Bill Rooks, his brothers Reid and Rance, and his uncle. That would keep him busy enough, but his dad has 150 acres, too and he spends half of the year helping his grandpa.
Both of his grandfathers have farming backgrounds, and his dad and uncle have been tending the land on the paternal side since before his paternal grandfather passed away. Wallie Waters, on his mother’s side, tends land a few miles down the road growing squash and other produce. To say Rooks has it in his blood is an understatement.
Rooks grows cotton and sometimes corn, depending on the market. This is the third year he’s been tending his own land and, like much of the Candler County community, he takes his cotton to Candler Gin.
He relies on other growers and his family to mentor him and offer any advice, but that doesn’t take away the stress he faces. The weather, the cost, and the unpredictability makes the complications of college seem simple. Luckily, he’s been following in the footsteps of so many around him since he was young.
Rooks can plant 150 acres in a few days, but it’s all about the timing, the planning, and the follow-up with chemicals while making sure everything is done right. Double the work when you add in his dad’s land and anything his grandpa might need. Rooks said he would eventually like to have more land, but under the circumstances now, 300 acres in the family is just about right.
It might surprise you that he has a good number of friends in agriculture, but most are in the industry because they were lucky enough to have generations before them laying the groundwork and building blocks. Still, he’s not your typical 22-year-old. While most of his friends are buying new trucks and boats for weekend fun, Rooks is buying farm equipment. Over the last few years, Rooks has purchased two tractors, a planter, and three cotton pickers, but he’s reasonable with his money as a part-time farmer. Used is the way to go, he says. Unless you’re tending several hundred acres full-time, new equipment just isn’t a possibility for a small scale farmer. (A small farm by his definition is less than 1,000 acres). It’s expensive and the payments are cost-prohibitive. It’s a cycle, though. More acreage needs more expensive equipment to farm more efficiently and therefore, there are more input costs. To make up those costs, many want to tend more land. Luckily, Rooks is content…for now.
There’s a little extra money to be made with the cows at his home place. He keeps about 30 head of cattle year round and doesn’t require too much of his time.
Rooks is wise beyond his years, but it’s hard to tell if that’s inherent or learned from his experiences. He will tell you the best thing about farming is being labeled a farmer and living the farm life. He’s his own boss so he knows his work ethic is what will get the job done at the end of the day. If he wants to cut out at 3:00 one day, he can, but that might mean he’s there until midnight the next day. The work ethic is just one of the three characteristics he says you need to be a farmer. Couple that with good money management and an unwillingness to shy away from the risk, and you just might be on the right track.
Rooks is slated to graduate from Georgia Southern in 2017 with a degree in Business Management. In the mean time, he’ll keep splitting his time between the two – mostly because he just can’t stay away from it.
Rooks Bird nominated Wayne Rivenbark of Metter for All On Georgia – Candler’s ‘Farm of the Month.’ To see the October ‘Farm of the Month,’ click here.