Jay Coker of Coker Farms produces 7,000 acres of rice, corn and soybeans in Stuttgart, Arkansas.
He began the Coker farm business back in 1995, and the operation as continued to grow and develop ever since.
In the beginning
Growing up in Stuttgart, Arkansas, in the 1980s, it was common for young folks like Jay to get a job on a neighboring farm to make a money in the summer. So, like many of his peers, that’s exactly what Jay did. Working on the farm in his youth jumpstarted Jay’s interest in farming and inspired him to pursue a career in agriculture.
“I owe a great deal to those guys for showing me the things to do and the things not to do,” Jay said about the neighbors with whom he worked as a young man.
After graduating from high school, Jay earned a college degree in agriculture and, in 1988, he returned to Stuttgart to begin farming for himself.
Over the years, Jay has had to become accustomed to the way that agriculture, as an industry, operates full speed ahead throughout the entire year. And, as the climate changes, Jay adapts. He may harvest his crops later and later into the year, with the constant busyness intensifying.
“We go from early plantings and field prep in February to planting the crops, irrigating the crops, harvesting the crops through August and September, which has gotten to where it bleeds into October and November now,” Jay said. “There's a small window to deal with non-farm issues, including financial situations for new crops, marketing opportunities, analyzing the operations to see what changes we need to make, maintaining the equipment, getting everything ready to go, getting rid of the winter floods and drying the ground up for the spring.”
Whereas non-farmers may think that winter is a time of rest and relaxation for farmers like Jay, he understands, first-hand, how necessary those winter months are for managing and improving the farm business. “It's a continual cycle and there's really not a downtime anymore,” he said.
Farm Credit, a trusted partner
Having a trusted lender proved crucial for Jay amid these many challenges. Jay began working with AgHeritage Farm Credit shortly after he started Coker Farms. And he found the analysis that Farm Credit provided his specific operation to be important to developing his business.
“They have a great team that provided me specific analysis on my operation. and I thought that was crucial,” he said. “We have a lot of confidence that AgHeritage will either tell us we’re doing a good job, this is going the right direction, or they will tell us, hey, these things need a little more attention and we need to delve into these a little deeper.”
As he has continued to work with Farm Credit, Jay has greatly appreciated their deep knowledge of his industry. “With AgHeritage, they live and breathe agriculture every day,” Jay said. “Their advice, their analysis of the financial packages that the things that they bring to us and the relationship I have with that whole organization has been very meaningful. It's been critical to my success so far.”