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Landscapes, Summer 2008


In 2001, when Landscapes first profiled Jerry Reeves, he was contracting with his dad to custom-farm the land he had recently purchased. Six years later, Reeves has accomplished his goal — to be an owner-operator — and more.

Farming for Tuition

How are we going to pay for the kids’ education?

And how can we keep them busy in the summertime?

Jerry Reeves

Photo by Artie Limmer

Jerry Reeves

Those two questions plague many parents these days — but not agrichemical representative, Jerry Reeves, and his wife, Carrie, a nurse.

The couple found the answers to both, when they and their two young sons left the Kansas City suburbs 12 years ago and bought some farmland near Jerry’s hometown of Cotton Center, Texas.

Jerry, who grew up on a cotton operation, had always wanted to farm, but the family farming business wasn’t large enough to support his father and brother and him. After receiving his master’s degree in agronomy, he opted instead for a career with BASF, a multinational chemicals manufacturing company. Over the next 13 years, which involved several moves across the country, he was able to save toward his goal of buying land.

"One day I was sitting in Lenexa, Kansas, and I looked around and said to myself, ‘I don’t want our boys growing up here,’" Jerry recalls.

In 1996, on a visit to Cotton Center, he found 180 acres of prime cropland for sale and purchased it with financing from Panhandle-Plains Land Bank. "They’re open to people looking for new opportunities like this," he observes.

BASF, Jerry’s employer since 1983, offered him a sales position in the Lubbock region, allowing the family to return "home" to West Texas.

"At the time, I didn’t have any equity or machinery," says Jerry, explaining that he hired his father to custom-farm the place. A few years later, he purchased another 460 acres, eventually converting his irrigation systems from furrow to center pivot and purchasing his own farm equipment.

"My plans were to keep buying land and to keep farming it with my dad (until I could take over full time)," he says. "I had two boys, and they needed a place to work."

From the time they were old enough to responsibly handle machinery and follow their dad’s instructions, sons Jarrad and Heath were charged with the day-to-day responsibilities of running the 640-acre cotton farm.

"It evolved into a way for me to pay for their education," Jerry explains, not to mention life lessons in responsibility. "They do the work, and I pay them on an hourly basis, like clockwork."

As a member of BASF’s agricultural products group, he visits with hundreds of farmers every year throughout his service territory, which today comprises the entire Texas Panhandle. Seeing how weather and markets can squeeze even the best-managed farming operation caused Jerry to re-evaluate his expansion plans in recent years.

"I just got really conservative. Buying land takes such a big chunk of money. I didn’t want to get overextended," he admits.

"I have a lot of respect for those guys who get up every day and go out and work the land full time, especially now that equipment, fertilizer and fuel prices are so much higher," he says. "I have never had the courage to get away from the paycheck."

After graduating from his dad’s alma mater, Texas Tech University, a year and a half ago, older son Jarrad became a pilot in the U.S. Navy. In two years, Heath also will graduate from Texas Tech, leaving Jerry to handle more of the farm work himself.

Whether or not he opts some day to become a full-time farmer, Jerry can take pride in reaching his original goal — to purchase and operate his own farm.

Even more important, he and Carrie have the satisfaction of knowing that their investment in 640 acres was an investment in their sons.

"It’s been a good lesson in responsibility for them," Jerry comments.

Article by Janet Hunter
– Photo by Artie Limmer