Texas Agriculture February 17, 2017 : Page 8

RGV farmers kick off planting season for state, nation By Jessica Domel Multimedia Editor In early February, while much of the nation and parts of Texas were still enduring cooler temperatures, farmers in the Rio Grande Valley were hard at work planting the na-tion’s first seeds of 2017. “We’re the first to start planting corn, sorghum and cotton. We’ll har-vest the first bale of cotton, and we’ll probably harvest the first bushel of corn and grain sorghum,” Chris Sparks, Cameron and Hidalgo coun-ties farmer, said. Sparks owns and operates CJ Farms north of Harlingen with his wife, Laura, and three-year-old son, Jack. The couple kicked off their 2017 planting season Feb. 4 with bins full of corn. “Prices are not what we would like them to be. Moisture is a bit of an issue. We’ve got decent moisture. We’ve been blessed by two decent rains in the past few weeks, but we always have to conserve our mois-ture because we’re a dryland opera-tion,” Sparks, who also chairs the Texas Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee, said. Sparks began planting sorghum Feb. 8, which he says is a few days later than last year due to welcome rains. “Our biggest concern is we’ve got to watch our dol-lars and cents because of cheap commodity prices for grain sorghum and corn. Cot-ton looks optimistic, but right now corn and grain sorghum as a whole really don’t have a good price,” Sparks said. That price prompted Sparks to reconsider his allo-cation of acres this year. “Compared to last year, our grain sorghum acres are down just because the price is not there. Our corn acres are up because the sug-arcane aphid doesn’t affect the corn like it does the grain sorghum. Our cotton is up because of price and because of our rotation practices,” Sparks said. “We’re a 100 percent dryland farm. We’ll probably be about half sorghum, a little over a third cotton, with the balance in corn.” As the planters rolled on, Sparks shared he’s optimistic about this dealer. It’s added work during busy times of the year, Sparks said, but it’s well worth it. “We’ve always grown Pioneer on our farm and the dealership was lost. We just didn’t have a dealer-ship. We got with Pioneer and it was something that I wanted to do to help serve our neighbors around us. It was also something to diver-sify [our operation],” Sparks said. Sparks shares in the work with Laura and his faithful employees. He said it’s because of them that he’s able to do as much as he does. “I think of my employees like a family on our farm. At the end of the day, our farm wouldn’t be in the shape that it is if we didn’t have those employees,” Sparks said. “I’m thankful to have them. They’re all good people, and they all contribute in different ways.” After it’s harvested in mid-June, Sparks’ corn will be sold to a local elevator. He said often grain sor-ghum and corn from his area make their way to Mexico where they are used for feed. F EBRUARY 17 , 2017 8 year’s crops. “In this line of work, you’ve al-ways got to be optimistic about ev-ery crop because you have to go in and have the faith that you’re going to make a crop,” Sparks said. To supplement his family’s in-come, and to help in bad years, Sparks has become a Pioneer seed

RGV Farmers Kick Off Planting Season for State, Nation

Jessica Domel

In early February, while much of the nation and parts of Texas were still enduring cooler temperatures, farmers in the Rio Grande Valley were hard at work planting the nation’s first seeds of 2017.

“We’re the first to start planting corn, sorghum and cotton. We’ll harvest the first bale of cotton, and we’ll probably harvest the first bushel of corn and grain sorghum,” Chris Sparks, Cameron and Hidalgo counties farmer, said.

Sparks owns and operates CJ Farms north of Harlingen with his wife, Laura, and three-year-old son, Jack.

The couple kicked off their 2017 planting season Feb. 4 with bins full of corn.

“Prices are not what we would like them to be. Moisture is a bit of an issue. We’ve got decent moisture. We’ve been blessed by two decent rains in the past few weeks, but we always have to conserve our moisture because we’re a dryland operation,” Sparks, who also chairs the Texas Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee, said.

Sparks began planting sorghum Feb. 8, which he says is a few days later than last year due to welcome rains.

“Our biggest concern is we’ve got to watch our dollars and cents because of cheap commodity prices for grain sorghum and corn. Cotton looks optimistic, but right now corn and grain sorghum as a whole really don’t have a good price,” Sparks said.

That price prompted Sparks to reconsider his allocation of acres this year.

“Compared to last year, our
grain sorghum acres are down just because the price is not there. Our corn acres are up because the sugarcane aphid doesn’t affect the corn like it does the grain sorghum. Our cotton is up because of price and because of our rotation practices,” Sparks said. “We’re a 100 percent dryland farm. We’ll probably be about half sorghum, a little over a third cotton, with the balance in corn.”

As the planters rolled on, Sparks shared he’s optimistic about this year’s crops.


“In this line of work, you’ve always got to be optimistic about every crop because you have to go in and have the faith that you’re going to make a crop,” Sparks said.

To supplement his family’s income, and to help in bad years, Sparks has become a Pioneer seed dealer. It’s added work during busy times of the year, Sparks said, but it’s well worth it.

“We’ve always grown Pioneer on our farm and the dealership was lost. We just didn’t have a dealership. We got with Pioneer and it was something that I wanted to do to help serve our neighbors around us. It was also something to diversify [our operation],” Sparks said.

Sparks shares in the work with Laura and his faithful employees. He said it’s because of them that he’s able to do as much as he does.

“I think of my employees like a family on our farm. At the end of the day, our farm wouldn’t be in the shape that it is if we didn’t have those employees,” Sparks said. “I’m thankful to have them. They’re all good people, and they all contribute in different ways.”

After it’s harvested in mid-June, Sparks’ corn will be sold to a local elevator. He said often grain sorghum and corn from his area make their way to Mexico where they are used for feed.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/RGV+Farmers+Kick+Off+Planting+Season+for+State%2C+Nation/2712230/384301/article.html.

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