Glendora Producer Earns Farmer of the Year Nomination
Story by Nathan Gregory • Photos by Kevin Hudson
Publicity was not on the mind of Mike Sturdivant III in 1974 when he began farming, so his response to being named the 2017 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Mississippi was one of surprise.
“I was shocked when I got the phone call, quite frankly,” says the fifth-generation producer, who grows cotton, corn, and soybeans in Glendora. “Our family has never sought the limelight. We just do what we can do and try to do things for others.”
One resource Sturdivant said has played a constant role in his success is the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville is not far away from Sturdivant’s farm, called Due West.
Due West got its name from being located west of the site Sturdivant’s great-great-grandfather moved to in Tallahatchie County in the 1850s. His family moved to the current location 30 years later.
Sturdivant bought land on his own and managed it before gradually taking over his late father’s farming interest. Sturdivant oversees day-to-day operations on the now 12,000-acre property, while his brothers, Walker and Sykes, manage the operation’s crop-marketing services, grain elevator, and cotton gin.
Extension has grown variety-trial crops on Sturdivant’s land over the years.
“In our early days, a lot of corn and soybean varieties we grew were developed by Extension,” he recalls. “There were different things with growing corn that we knew nothing about, and Extension agents and specialists showed us what the best practices were and what we needed to do.
“Extension has been instrumental in everything we’ve done,” Sturdivant adds. “Whenever we’ve had questions, they had the answers.”
Tallahatchie County Extension agent Jimbo Burkhalter said Sturdivant is an innovative producer because of his willingness to adapt as crop-production technology evolves. Sturdivant consults Extension specialists and refers to Extension publications whenever he sees an issue on his land, Burkhalter says.
“Mike goes to many different row-crop short courses, seminars, and meetings to improve his understanding of modern-day farming. Then, he brings it home and sees if it’s a good fit for his farm,” he says. “He believes in our recommendations because they’re unbiased and based on our variety-trial research, some of which has been done on his land in the past.”
Sturdivant believes staying updated on production methods and technology is necessary for survival.
“Growers have to be more efficient each year if they want to stay,” he says. “Bigger and better things are always on the horizon when it comes to technology. Chemical companies keep introducing genes designed to improve yields. We need to do test plots to see what works for our land.”
Sturdivant’s wife, Jan, has an Extension tie through her work with 4-H equine programs in Mississippi. A certified instructor, she works to make horsemanship programs safer through education.
She believes teaching and crop production require similar qualities to maintain success over time.
“I think Mike has a real gift for leadership and working with people of all backgrounds,” she says. “He also has very high standards and the energy to reach them. He’s used to assessing different styles of getting things done and picking one that is going to work the best for his operation.”