The Long Drive

This past week I put 1,400 miles on the Hertz rental car. During the tour I visited an Amish farm, stopped to see Elvis’ birthplace, flew past Buford T. Pusser’s home, (i.e. Jackie Gleason and Burt Reynolds movie fame), was in Hurricane Lili, and tailgated and experienced the Missouri vs. Oklahoma football game on Saturday.

My first stop was in Jackson, TN, to speak at the Midsouth Agricultural Lenders Conference. Bankers and producers indicated that the grain farmers were either having their best or worst year, depending on the weather.

After the talk I spent two hours on an Amish farm that marketed their own milk. They were gracious hosts. This farm was five miles from population, yet they sell 800 gallons of milk per week. Their competitive edge was milk in glass bottles and using a homegrown natural process. People were driving up to 45 miles to pick up milk because of a newspaper article that previewed the operation.

After a quick glass of good old-fashioned milk, I traveled through South Tennessee to Adamsville, home of Buford T. Pusser. Believe me, the area is just like in the movie, with all the "good ol’ boys."

I then headed South to Tupelo, MS, home of Elvis’ birthplace. Wow! I stopped by his original home and took the tour. Elvis was born in a two-room home called a "shot gun house," i.e. you can shoot through the whole house. It was a 200-acre dairy cash crop farm, and his parents were sharecroppers. He used to come back and serve ice cream himself to all the little children in the area. I’ll bet their family living costs were not $47,000 like today’s producers, or $8,800 of credit card debt like that of the general public.

I then cruised down toward Jackson on I-55. I was the only one heading South as everyone else was going North, evacuating the area. It was interesting to observe the producers harvesting cotton and beans all night to beat the storm.

The next day I conducted my first Hurricane Seminar for the Mississippi Bankers. Everyone who signed up attended. The bankers indicated that cotton producers were experiencing tough competition from China.

With the hurricane in full force and flights cancelled, I headed for Columbia, MO, in my rental car. Trucks were off the road and trees were down, and 11 hours later, I made it.

The producers attending this seminar were under age 40 and excellent business people. They stated that they had to keep their spouses working because of health benefits. This is one of the biggest storm clouds in America for small businesses.

My good friend, John Allen, of the Missouri Bankers Association, hosted a great tailgate party. The Mizzou quarterback, who’s a freshman, looks much like our Michael Vick, and almost beat the Sooners.

It’s a long column this week, but there was lots of good old philosophy observed and experienced during a long road trip.

My e-mail address is:sullylab@vt.edu

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He recently completed a sabbatical working with the Royal Bank of Canada. He is now back at Virginia Tech with his academic appointment, which is teaching, extension, and applied research.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

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