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For John McCormick, farming is a tradition. His ability to help his farm evolve over the years earned him the title recently of “Georgia Farmer of the Year.” He will represent Georgia at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition in Moultrie, Ga., in October.
The Sylvania, Ga., corn, peanut and soybean farmer was honored recently by Gov. Nathan Deal during the state’s Ag Awareness Day at the Georgia Capitol.
McCormick’s wife, Paula, and four sons and daughters-in-law were on hand as well.
Ray Hicks, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension coordinator for Screven County, nominated McCormick, who pioneered the use of new technologies, such as GPS-guided machinery and variable-rate irrigation, in southeast Georgia.
“He is a very diversified farmer who has used modern technology to help improve the profitability and sustainability of this farm,” Hicks says. “(He’s used) variable-rate irrigation and GPS on his tractor and has adopted conservation tillage on his land.” McCormick started farming as a child with his father, but he didn’t decide on it as a career until high school, when he completed a series of 4-H projects.
His father allowed him to use part of his land for the projects, and McCormick discovered he loved the experimental side of farming — trying new things and seeing if they would improve his crop.
Over his 42-year career, McCormick has never stopped experimenting and trying to make his operation better. Starting in 1974 as a Bulloch County, Ga., tobacco farmer, he has diversified his crops and embraced new technologies that have allowed him to improve yields with fewer resources and care for the land.
Over the years, he also raised swine and cattle, but he was able to change directions when those parts of farming no longer made sense, says Mark McCann, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences assistant dean for Extension.
“Helping your farm evolve doesn’t just mean taking on the newest technology and techniques; it’s also the ability to let things go,” says McCann, who worked with McCormick during the late 1980s. “People sometimes have a harder time with that than with adopting the new stuff. The thing about John is that he hasn’t allowed himself to be tied down. It’s not always been about the adoption of new technology, but it’s about the strategy of how he defines his farm.”
Over the years, McCormick focused on improving the efficiency and sustainability of his farm and leaving his land in better shape than it was when he bought it.
“(Our goal is) to reduce erosion, improve soil health and use the latest, best management practices that are available and applicable,” McCormick writes. “Due to ongoing research, the goals have evolved through the years and will continue to change as research unveils new ways to improve soil health and produce more crops with higher yields on less acreage.”