One of my earliest childhood memories takes me back to a small 20’X50’ vegetable garden on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. I can still remember my legs covered in dirt as I ran the bucket on my Tonka backhoe toy to dig the holes that my brother would fill with seed. “You two are such a big help,” my mother would cheer us on as she fixed our lopsided mounds. I did not know it at the time, but she was instilling something in me that would follow me the rest of my life.
One blink of an eye later, I was ten years old with a 50 pound sack of clover seed cradled in my arms. My father stood beside me with sacks on each shoulder as his best friend backed up “Ol’ Bessie.” This 1964 Massey Ferguson tractor had easily seen more than five thousand miles solely on wildlife food plots. Putting my body weight (which could not have been much more than the sack of seed) into full swing, I heaved the bag up to the spreader on the back of Ol’ Bessie. We emptied our sacks and watched as the seed scattered onto the rich black soil. I was finally starting to get the hang of it.
It took 12 more years for it all to come together for me. While at college in Starkville, Mississippi, I spent time working on the Mississippi State research farm and spent much of my free time on a friend’s nearby farm. It’s worth noting, in case my Mom is reading this, I spent a lot of time going to class too. From my senior year through the end of my Master’s program, I started farming on my own. This time, however, Mom and Dad were not there to fix my mistakes. Yes Mom, I still went to class, but at 5:00 AM before class, I was moving my cows, letting out my chickens, checking on my lambs, and feeding my pigs a little breakfast. I had worked out a deal with Johnny and Deb Wray at High Hope Farm and had over 400 mouths to feed. While moving all the animals around, I was also growing their food –the grass –and the soil simultaneously. Without recognizing it, I was combining 22 years of experience into a regenerative farming practice.
Today, I still love to help things grow, but it has manifested itself in different ways. For example, I still go back to our family property to help my parents plant their garden and wildlife food plots. I just do not use my Tonka backhoe toy anymore. WhenI am not there, I am helping landscapers across the United States grow their customers’ lawns, gardens, trees, and shrubs while also helping them grow their businesses. With SoilKit they are able to improve their operational efficiency (often by 300%) with soil testing and fertilizer application best practices. I also use SoilKit to design programs specifically for my customers that generate more revenue and new clients. It is evident that my landscapers, similarly to myself, still have a passion for things that grow. I would not be surprised if it all started for them somewhere like it did for me, in that little backyard garden outside Birmingham.