Replanting for Rebuilding
Billy Tigrett’s old, rusting, light blue Ford truck sits in the grass on his Prentiss County farm as the sun beams.
Retiree uses old-school equipment to modernize production
Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson
When retired teacher Billy Tigrett retired for the second time from Walmart, he gave some thought to living off his retirement, social security, and 401K.
He didn’t think about it long.
“Living off checks, sitting in a recliner, and not doing anything will put you in a nursing home,” he says. “You have to stay busy and must have a purpose.”
And Tigrett absolutely has a purpose—he’s rebuilding the Prentiss County farm where he grew up and where he now lives with his wife, Barbara. He’s not worried that his age will get in his way. For that matter, he doesn’t think the age of the equipment—close to 60 years old—will get in his way, either.
“This is an old farm, and I have an old tractor shed,” he explains. “I’ve put a new top on the barn and new posts, but it’s filled with an accumulation of things of over 70 years, so I’m cleaning it out. I’m getting the equipment clean and repainting.”
He’s also restoring his old tractor—Tigrett actually grew up riding it. While it’s not as comfortable or snazzy as the later models, he takes great pride in renovating it to use for his modern soybean production operation.
Tigrett grew up farming soybeans and cotton. After he left the area for college and a teaching career, his dad rented the land out to local farmers. The fields gradually became smaller as they stopped using fences. Ditches grew up with trees. Some old fields with long, straight rows developed six, seven, or even eight short rows.
When Tigrett returned to the family farm as a retiree, he bought a backhoe. He was determined to reverse the loss, and his fields are regaining their width. Overall, Tigrett’s 2017 crop yielded impressive results; he grew 50 acres of quality soybeans. He says he feels well on his way to making the improvements necessary to increase his efficiency and his harvest.
“I have to leave this land better than I received it,” he emphasizes.
When Tigrett grew up farming soybeans and cotton, producers had very few choices in soybean varieties, he says. However, a myriad of choices abound today.
“I quickly realized I needed information, and, being a Mississippi State graduate, I knew I needed the Extension Service,” he says. “Extension goes back a long way with me: I was in 4-H with the assistant county agent Jim Archer, and we went on trips to Club Congress. I did projects in soil judging, in beekeeping, and I still have two hives of bees now.
“So, when I didn’t know what to plant, I called Skip (Glidewell), who got in contact with Charlie Stokes,” Tigrett continues. “We did a soil test and some research, and they helped me find the right variety.”
Stokes, the Extension agent in Monroe County, has expertise in soil and row-crop production, and Tigrett says he’s grateful for the assistance he’s received from Stokes and Glidewell. Glidewell is the Extension agent for Prentiss County, and he’s truly a jack-of-all-trades, Tigrett says.
Having the help to return his farm to profitability has been very important to Tigrett.
Even using old equipment, Tigrett’s application of modern methods has been vetted and explained by Extension agents.
“I’m not saying that using old equipment makes it better, but, with it and Extension, I’m finding a good way to do this to see if it’s a profitable thing,” Tigrett explains. “Skip has helped me to put together a lot of connections; he’ll come up with an answer right then and there, or he’ll call somebody.
“Skip and Charlie are just as interested in helping me with 50 acres as another farmer who’s got 5,000. Extension wants to see me save money and be profitable.”