Jim Tucker has been honored as Switzerland County’s ‘Conservation Farmer of the Year’ for 2020 by the Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District — an honor that he is grateful to receive.
“I’ve tried to get the operation set up, and NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) has been a big help and done things,” Tucker said. “I’ve just tried to do better with their help, and I’m glad that I guess I’ve tried a little harder than everyone else, maybe.”
Tucker says that he’s pretty much farmed all his life.
“I always worked for everybody, and dad farmed just a little bit, but I worked for Bruce Hutcherson all the way through high school,” Tucker said. “I worked a public job for several years and farmed on the side, but I’ve been farming solely since about 2008. I’ve always had cattle and farmed no matter what — since I’ve been on my own at 18.”
Tucker raises cattle and hay now, noting that he used to do some row crops on a small scale several years ago before turning his focus to just hay and cattle.
“I’ve got about 300 acres of hay,” he said. “That’s rented and owned and share cropped. A little bit of everything. Right now I’ve got about 85 head of cattle.”
Tucker has been quite involved with the programs of the Soil and Water Conservation District.
“We’ve worked on the purifying of the water, we’ve put waters in to keep them out of other areas,” Tucker said. “Several years ago I put a pond in and put the below the dam drinking fountain in so they couldn’t get into the pond. We’ve done some fencing. We’ve put the heavy use pads in to keep the erosion and that down. We’ve put in a little bit of access roads.”
Tucker says that he’s also been involved in inner-seeding on crops and pastures with the help of the program.
“They do a real good job down there at the office,” Tucker said. “Matt’s (Jarvis, District Conservationist) only been in there a short time, but Cheryl (Furnish) and me and been through several things. She’s been involved in all of my programs since I got involved. She’s just been a world of help. Matt down there now, he’s come in and doing really good.”
At age 45 and farming full time, Tucker knows that in some ways he’s beaten the odds in being able to have a career — and a life — in farming.
“I don’t ever want to discourage anybody, but sometimes it gets worse everyday,” he says. “I say I farm full time — I don’t have a public job — but I do a lot of custom farm work; I order and buy cattle. I haul cattle for people. I haul and work on equipment for people. It’s gotten to the point anymore where the numbers I shared with you wouldn’t support a full time salary. Everything I do is farming-related, no matter what. If I’m working in the shop out here on other people’s farm equipment. I do have a little excavation deal. I really don’t do any commercial stuff. I go put in the building pads for the NRCS and I do some of those jobs. I clear out a fence row or put a pond in. About everything that I do, it is for the farm.”
Tucker will be honored by the Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District at its annual meeting this Wednesday, March 10th. Because of COVID-19 pandemic, the district isn’t holding its annual dinner.