Off the road, in the field
Posted on Jan 31, 2023
Tony Scott, a veteran truck driver, also farms hundreds of acres in Tattnall County, Georgia.
Tony Scott is no stranger to hard work. For 28 years he has traveled across the United States delivering products as a truck driver. Now the father of two travels mostly in Georgia, but once he parks his truck, he cranks up his tractor to farm hundreds of acres.
“I always wanted to farm around 500 to 800 acres,” Scott said. “My goal is to transition from trucking to farming. I’m just about at that point.”
Scott grows cotton, corn, peanuts and vegetables. His inspiration for farming comes from his father and grandfather.
“My grandfather purchased land back in the 1940s, and we still own the land. He sent four of his kids to college from that farm,” Scott said proudly.
The Tattnall County, Georgia, native resides and farms in the rural community of Collins. He works eight hours a day on the truck and eight hours a day on the farm, but farming is his passion.
“When I first started, I planted 70 to 80 acres of soybeans,” Scott said. “What I was doing was using my truck money to pay for the farm, and I was using old equipment. It was getting me in a bind, so I went to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to apply for the operating loan.”
Likewise, the third-generation farmer recalls his father’s financial struggles three decades ago.
“My father was farming back in the late ’70s early ’80s,” Scott said. “He was up to 800 acres back then, but he hit a dry spell, had some financial hardships and ended up filing bankruptcy.”
For this reason, Scott said he’s cautious about his finances.
To help him with his farming financial decisions, Scott contacted Stefan Price, Fort Valley State University’s County Extension agent for Bulloch, Tattnall and Screven counties.
Price helped Scott prepare to apply for loans by teaching him how to document his financial records.
“Stefan showed me how to do my cash flow operation and how to put it on paper,” Scott said. “We continually do the numbers so I don’t get into any financial trouble.”
The small farmer said learning the importance of recordkeeping from Price has helped him have the information he needs to apply for loans and other forms of financial assistance from the FSA.
Price said he was able to get Scott up to date on technical assistance related to the crop production of peanuts and cotton and also using a computer for farm loans and farm management.
“He was fairly into technology and using technology,” Price said. “I just integrated that into his agronomic and farm management practices.”
The FVSU Extension agent said he’s seen progress with his client over the five years he’s provided assistance.
“He has really blossomed,” Price said. “He has taken the information that myself, UGA Extension services and USDA have provided and used that research and science-based information to build and expand his farm operation.”
Tony Scott (left) receives technical assistance from Stefan Price (right), FVSU County Extension agent, to help him manage hundreds of acres of crops.
To improve his operation, Price said that Scott had to make capital investments to get the tools he needed to operate efficiently.
“Purchasing those capital investments comes at a short-term indebtedness that has to be paid, and he’s using all the information he’s been given and the tools to manage his debt load,” Price said.
Prior to working with his county Extension agent, Scott said he had several applications that he started filling out but did not complete.
“Finally, I made up my mind and said, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’” he said. “I tell anyone, ‘you can’t do anything until you make the first step.’”
Since taking that step, Scott acquired the tools he needs to thrive as a farmer.
“I’ve received six operating loans and three equipment loans through FSA at different stages,” he said. “I’ve purchased two tractors and several pieces of equipment through the agency.”
The small farmer said assistance from FSA was vital to his survival and growth of the family farm.
“FSA helped me get established and obtain the proper equipment,” Scott said. “I started at 80 acres of land, and now I’m at 500 acres. I would have never been able to get to that point because the local banks would not have taken the risk.”
The 51-year-old encourages small farmers to be focused and to learn the financial side of farming.
“Anybody can operate a tractor now because of GPS,” Scott said. “The issue is doing the numbers. Make sure you’re working with real numbers and be realistic. Don’t set your goals too high.”
Although Scott has seen the financial challenges facing small, minority farmers, he still gets excited to see his product move from the field to the consumer.
“You get the benefit of knowing that you get to feed and clothe people,” he said. “After you grow something, you look back and see a shirt that someone’s wearing and know, I grew that shirt. Or you see someone with a jar of peanut butter at the grocery store and know, there’s some of my peanuts in that peanut butter.”
In the next two years, Scott plans to switch to farming full-time and park his truck permanently.
- FVSU Agriculture College