Chris Jones: Green Publishing, Inc.
Watching Madison native David Agner navigate a large John Deere grain combine around Generation Farms' organic cornfield makes it apparent that this man knows what he's doing. Operating farm equipment should come naturally to someone who drove their first tractor at seven-years-old and operated a combine in the fields at nine. After learning how to farm from his father and grandfather, Agner worked for local farmer Richard Cone and Birdsong Peanuts in Lee. He recently joined the Madison Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers program, which promotes the farming initiaitves of individuals between 18 and 35 years of age. Currently, Agner is a field worker for Generation Farms, and has been with the ogranization for four years. He is making moves in the world of large-scale, organic farming. Aside from running the combine, tractors, and trucks, Agner operates the irrigation equipment; maintaining and running the pivots, and injecting fertilizer and fungicide. “If we can get away with not having to spray the crops, that is the best approach, as organic pesticides are very expensive. The biggest difference between organic and conventional farming is the spray program,”said Agner.
In the southeast United States, the hot and humid climate, and the local species of pests make organic farming difficult. Despite those challenges, Generation Farms currently grows the following organic vegetables: corn, carrots, onions, beets, green beans, edamame, and sweet potatoes. Agner said he is getting to the point in his career that he is only working the organic side of Generation Farms.
Agner is proud to continue the family tradition of farming. “I might not be running my own family farm,” said Agner, “but I am using the skills and knowledge that I gained from my daddy and grandaddy.” Agner's grandfather, James C. Agner Sr. began, took up farming when he returned from World War II. According to Agner, his favorite aspect of farming is the unpredictability. “As odd as it seems, given the nature of farming, no two days are the same,” he said. In his spare time, Agner likes to hunt, fish, and spend time with his daughters, eight-year-old Sydney and five-year-old Shiloh.