Balancing Act

Farm Strong - Balancing Act

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Matthew and Kayla Poe (Progressive Farmer image by Brent Warren)

Profile: Kayla & Matthew Poe

-- Poe Farms

-- Pontotoc, Mississippi

-- Corn, Soybeans, Cotton, Timber, Cattle

There's not much a couple thousand acres of Southern ground can't grow. The secret is knowing exactly where to put what. Cattle and timber can work on poorer hill ground, while traditional row crops like corn, soybeans and cotton need more quality soils. The mix is a recipe for diversity that helps Kayla and Matthew Poe's family farm flourish.

"We aren't doing this for show," Kayla says. "This is what we want to do. We love farming, and we want to raise our kids in it. We're here for the long haul."

Word spreads when you think like that. Kayla says the last two blocks of land they've added came word-of-mouth. "People hear we are taking good care of the land, and that means a lot in our circles," she says.

Making ends meet isn't all about the crops, though. Matthew has a knack for keeping older equipment running, and sometimes he purchases used equipment he can fix and resell. It's one more income stream.

"It all works together," Matthew says. "On crops, when one is down [in price], usually one is up. The more income streams, the more you're spreading risk. That's one reason we like cattle. You generally know how many calves you'll have to sell every year, so that helps balance things out."

Kayla is eyeing that commercial cow/calf business with thoughts of turning it into something more. "We are looking at selling beef direct to consumers in our area," she says. "I'm not necessarily thinking a branded program, but we've seen others be successful at selling sides or quarters to people in the community."

An increase in consumer direct sales is one positive coming through the pandemic. But, the downsides have been especially challenging for the young family.

"A lot of our meetings have moved to Zoom, and we really hate them," Kayla says. "They are so impersonal."

Matthew adds he misses spending time with mentors. "COVID has really hurt that," he says. "There are older guys I can always call on for help. One friend of mine is in his 70s, and he calls and checks on us, drives by to check the crops. I need to be around people like him, because they help keep me moving forward. They put a lot of things in perspective."

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