Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
Agricultural News and Information
Spencers Named Outstanding Young Farmers
Calhoun County row crop and beef cattle farmers Brad and Carla Spencer
of Vardaman were recently named state winners of the 2011 Mississippi
Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Achievement
Award. They were recognized for their farming innovations, leadership
skills, and involvement with Farm Bureau and their community. The announcement
was made in December during Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Jackson.
The Spencers will receive a new Ford pickup truck, the use of John Deere
and Kubota tractors, $500 from Dodge and $1800 toward the purchase of
technology from Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. They will represent
Mississippi in national competition in Honolulu, Hawaii, in January.
A third generation farmer, Brad grew up on his family’s Vardaman
sweet potato farm and planted his first crop, a total of five acres, when
he was 15. Through the years, he gradually increased his acreage until
he was able to form a partnership with his father. The Spencers now annually
grow 500 acres of sweet potatoes. They package, sell and distribute four
grades of potatoes and bag and custom pack potatoes for other brokers.
The farm diversified in recent years, planting peanuts and soybeans for
the benefit of crop rotation. Brad also runs 50 head of cattle and grows
20 acres of watermelons with his sons, primarily to teach his children
about responsibility and decision-making. The money his sons receive from
selling the cattle and watermelons is saved for their college education.
For extra income, Brad sells dirt and mulch to local landscapers and to
individuals in the community. He also sells and spreads chicken litter.
One of the biggest challenges with the Spencers’ sweet potato operation
was figuring out how to more effectively market their crop.
“We wanted to be able to sell the entire crop,” Brad said.
“After investigating different marketing options, we now use processors
and canneries for our lower-grade potatoes and for other farmers’
potatoes as well.
“Using our packing shed to pack for other packers, both in-state
and out-of-state, provides us with extra income,” he said. “In
our packing shed, I added two more packing lines that are designed for
my own washer to help make this process easier. A local machine shop built
these machines. By redesigning my packing line with a few modifications,
I increased the productivity of the line. Doing this, I cut my time in
half and increased production by 40 percent.”
As a cost-saving measure, Brad has learned to scout for insects. In addition,
he modified a piece of equipment so that it could be used for both sweet
potatoes and peanuts. The equipment is made so that you can spray and
plow with the same piece of equipment. He also uses Round-up and no-till
as much as possible.
Brad’s future plans include expanding his storage facility and building
a cannery yard to load trucks indoors. He also plans to use a guidance
system in the fields to more efficiently use the land. In addition, he
would like to help the sweet potato farming community get a viable crop
insurance product in place for sweet potatoes. Finally, he plans to continue
to cooperate with Mississippi State University in growing test plots with
his sweet potatoes.
The Spencers are active members of their county Farm Bureau, where he
is a member of the board of directors and serves as YF&R chair. She
is county women’s committee vice chair, and they are members of
the State YF & R Committee, where he has served as vice chair. He
has also served as vice chair of the MFBF Sweet Potato Commodity Advisory
Committee and has participated in the statewide Farm Families of Mississippi
Ag Image Campaign.
Brad is a member of the board of directors of the Sweet Potato Council
and the board of directors of the Sweet Potato Council Fruit and Vegetable
Co-op. He was named the Sweet Potato Council Young Farmer of the Year
in 2006 for promoting new ways of selling sweet potatoes.
Brad is active in numerous other ag organizations, his church and various
civic organization. He coaches two baseball teams every year as a volunteer
and is the volunteer pitching coach for the local high school baseball
The Spencers have two children, ages 11 and 8.
For more information about the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young
Farmers and Ranchers program, contact YF&R Coordinator Kirsten Johnson
Farm Bureau Federation is the state's largest general farm
organization with more than 197,000 member-families statewide. There
are Farm Bureaus in all 82 counties in Mississippi
where agriculture comprises a fundamental part of
Mississippi 's economy.
Headquartered in Jackson
, the federation is an independent, non-profit agricultural
organization and is not associated with any arm of the government.
For more information about Farm Bureau, visit our website at www.msfb.org.