Mr. Neil Rogers of Reidsville is a humble man. He took time away from his farming operation to talk with AllOnGeorgia alongside his wife, Mrs. Libby, to discuss his love of agriculture and his stewardship of the land as he was recognized as January’s ‘Farm of the Month.’
Neil was born in 1941 and raised on the family farm with 5 siblings. He married Mrs. Libby when they were 20 years-old after meeting her at Reidsville High School. They have three children, Phyllis Rogers Crews, Ronald Rogers, and Renee Rogers Howard, each of whom have provided two grandchildren.
Neil went to work in public works and spent some time at a local bank, but managed to keep up with part-time farming on just 40-50 acres. Tending everything from corn, soybeans and peanuts to tobacco, Mr. Neil is well-versed in row cropping. While working at the bank, he bought a small piece of equipment to scratch the itch that wouldn’t quit. It wasn’t long after that that he decided full-time farming was his calling – something in his blood. He’s been farming full-time for over forty years now and since 1995, has been tending 100% cotton, something you rarely see anymore. He takes all of his cotton to Southern States in Statesboro.
Out of the gate, Mr. Neil discussed the revolution of farming, going as far as to say it has changed more than anything else in his life. Between the technology and the input costs of seed and fertilizer, he says it made him realize you either adapt or get out of agriculture all together. He’s managed to grow conservatively though, burning out equipment as long as he can and not giving into the pressure to buy the latest and greatest every other year. That, of course, led to the discussion of his age and farming. He is 74, after all.
Mr. Neil says as you age, you begin to farm on a one-year basis. You wait to see if the year will provide before committing to the next, which means he’s also “too old” to be buying new equipment, he says. With the high costs and the average age of farmers consistently on the rise, Neil grimaces when he talks about the number of farmers he’s seen come and go. The average size of a farm these days, he says, is about 1,000 acres and “it takes a lot of money and a lot of praying to farm 1,000 acres.”
He did try to grow onions for a few years, but Mrs Libby said, “I told him if he kept it up with the onions, I would divorce him.” The animal that is produce is much different than commodities, and one Mrs. Libby is happy was only an experiment.
Mr. Neil spoke extensively about the prices of cotton and how he, and every other farmer, are constantly trying to increase the yields per acre. Mr. Neil says The Lord has continually blessed him and even when he sees a difficult season, God pulls him out of it and pushes him on to the next year.
“I’ve always said a farmer has got to have a lot of faith and no sense or a combination of both.”
Growing only cotton for the last twenty years has provided for a unique specialization, but makes for a complicated problem when he needs crop rotations. He says more rotation requires more equipment and often times more hands. Mr. Neil prides himself on being a conservative farmer. He doesn’t stick his neck out financially if he doesn’t know how he will pay for it, something he says is necessary for someone who has long been doing most of the work himself.
That dedication is not unusual in farming. Mr. Neil says that, along with patience and prayer, it’s the most important trait of a good farmer. And one more thing: “Don’t do more than you can afford. Stick to the basics.” The basics, he says, also include a strong work ethic, something he learned from his daddy, Garland.
Farming isn’t always easy on the family. With Mrs. Libby by his side, he acknowledged it’s been trying over the years, and they spoke in unison about farming requiring year round attention. Vacations are limited and down time periods are few and far between. He said he thought about traveling the world as an airline pilot, “seeing the world and getting paid for it,” but it couldn’t be near as rewarding. Mrs. Libby chimed in to say, “Our family knows how to work and they know how to handle things, so it has been good. We are a close family.” He says the same thing about the hard work of Mrs. Libby, though, and credits his success to her support and partnership. He believes The Lord, the land, and Mrs. Libby have been good to him.
These days, Mr. Neil says he’s slowing down, but he still tends about 700 acres with one person to help. When he’s not planting, he’s working on his equipment, repairing parts and making sure the pickers are good to go for the next season. With a son in Gainesville and two daughters in other industries, Mr. Neil says when it comes time to stop farming, he will sell his equipment and lease out the land, something he says he isn’t looking forward to. Sadly, he believes farming is endangered.
His father was Garland Rogers kin to Sydney Rogers and Attis Rogers.
Mr. Neil Rogers was nominated by Billy Jay Durrence of Glennville. For the February ‘Farm of the Month,’ Mr. Neil Rogers nominated Lavanda Lynn.