Farmer’s roots are deep

Published 6:44 pm Monday, August 25, 2008

By Staff
Ross remembers the way farming was decades ago
Staff Writer
BATH — Farmers can learn a lot from George Ross.
The 80-year-old farmer and owner of Ross Farms in Bath is full of agricultural knowledge; and he has more than enough farming stories to tell, too.
With the help of his son, Buddy, the elder Ross has been able to adapt and keep pace with the constant changes in commodity farming. Thanks to his tireless effort and hard work, the Ross family’s farm has been a mainstay in agricultural production in the area for over half a century.
While still in high school, Ross decided to go into the family business. He figured there was no other option — being a farmer was in his blood.
In 1946, with Ross one year removed from high school, his father bought a John Deere L to tend to the crops. The 12-horsepower tractor was little more effective than a pair of mules, which the tractor replaced, Ross said.
Although the tractor never tired, Ross, at times, was exhausted from plowing the 80-acre farm with the John Deere L.
Even Ross’ neighbors took notice of the hard work the young man was putting in.
Ross started out growing tobacco, corn and soy beans. He planted, picked and shipped the commodities himself. The yields were shipped to Blount-Midget, an agricultural compound in Washington.
Sometimes, Ross would work well into the night picking crops, and then he would load and haul them until morning.
The Ross family gained quite a reputation with Blount-Midget, Ross said.
After using the John Deere L for more than a year, Ross’ father bought an 18-horsepower Ford Ferguson 9N.
Ross used open pollinating to produce corn crops, but a local farmer introduced an efficient alternative.
While Ross was pulling 30 bushels on a good crop of corn, local farmer Jatha Brine harvested 100 bushels of hybrid corn.
With the introduction of hybrid corn came the introduction of effective herbicides. Before herbicides, “We had to plow everything,” said Ross.
Of the advancements in corn growing, Ross said, “There’s been a giant leap in technology from open pollinating to the present day.”
Ross also advanced production by buying a self-propelled combine in 1955.
He bought the combine from Columbus Snow, owner of the Beaufort Equipment Co.
Ross thinks the biggest impact on farming efficiency comes from improvements in the horsepower of farming equipment, such as the combine.
In 1990, Ross bought a 9600 combine. The combine could handle 200 bushels of corn.
Of course, the price for such equipment has increased dramatically over the decades.
When Ross bought his Massey-Harris back in the ’50’s, it cost about $7,000 or $8,000, he said.
Ross owns “a little over” 2,000 acres of farmland. When he started farming, the biggest farm in the county was owned by A.D. Swindell.
Swindell is in the North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Ross said he learned his strict work ethic from his father, which has led to his financial success.
Ross said he enjoys farming because a farmer is his own man.
Ross is grateful for his success, but he warns other farmers may not find he success he has found.
Ross also offered an opinion on farming.