Mickey Diamond, a third-generation farmer in Jay, Florida, grows peanuts and cotton on JM Diamond Farm, his 1,600-acre operation.
Mickey farms alongside his dad, John Marshall, after whom the farm is named.
Always ready for something new
Mickey has made it his business to keep up with the latest ag tools and technology. Back in 1995, he was the ﬁrst farmer in Santa Rosa County to plant BT cottonseed, an early contender in the genetically-modiﬁed category. He was also one of the ﬁrst local growers to adopt on-farm peanut pod blasting, a method of determining peanut maturity. “If you don’t evolve, you’re going to get left behind,” he said.
Mickey is particularly interested in the newest strategies for conservation and making his operation more resilient to climate risks. This curiosity led him and a neighbor to become the ﬁrst farmers in their county to try strip-tilling. “People told us we’d lost our minds,” Mickey said. “But it worked great. We invested in more equipment the next year and we continue to farm with strip-tilling today.”
Once Mickey’s neighbors saw how his soil held moisture during dry weather, and how this new technique prevented soil erosion and reduced costs, they wanted to try it for themselves. In fact, his neighbors were so interested, that Santa Rosa soon boasted the most strip-tilled acres of any county in the state of Florida.
Mickey was also among the ﬁrst to adopt the practice of planting cover crops to help enrich and protect the soil in both his peanut and cotton ﬁelds. And he was one of the early users of precision agriculture techniques back in 1998. In the ﬁrst year alone, he saved 29 tons of lime on a 56-acre ﬁeld, and the next year, only had to apply lime to 40 out of 750 acres.
Mickey credits his father with coaching him on “how to try things sensibly and in ways that protected me.”
“My dad was always conservative with farming techniques. I’m the progressive one… always wanting to try something new. But we both feel strongly about being good stewards of the land.”
An example for others
Naysayers took notice and so did the local agricultural associations. Mickey’s progressive farming practices led to several honors, including winning the Florida Farm Bureau’s This Farm CARES award and being named Northwest Florida Ag Innovator of the Year. But Mickey is quick to say he doesn’t do any of it for the recognition.
“I’m not out there doing things to win an award,” he said. “But I don’t mind being an inﬂuencer. I see lots of people who would like to try something, but they want someone else to do it ﬁrst. When they see it works, then they will go in that direction.”
Strong financial partner
While Mickey is quick to take calculated risks to improve his farm business, he relies on his long-time partnership with Farm Credit of Northwest Florida to know that “someone always has his back.”
“My dad was a Farm Credit customer as long as I can remember. It made sense to me to go there when I needed a loan to buy my ﬁrst piece of land,” said Mickey. “I was just a few years out of high school, but they were so supportive of me.”
Mickey has turned to Farm Credit for several land and operating loans over the years, as well as for equipment loans, like the one he secured when he began experimenting with strip-tilling.
Mickey finds it comforting to work with a lending institution that understands the ups and downs that farmers like himself deal with each and every year.
“Farming is my livelihood. If we had a bad year, I’ve still got to ﬁnd a way to keep going because that’s my life,” Mickey said. “And Farm Credit knows and respects that.”
Recently, Mickey was elected to serve as a director on the board of Farm Credit of Northwest Florida, taking his relationship with Farm Credit to the next level.
“Farming takes so much capital and so many resources. It takes mentors and a supportive family, and especially a lender like Farm Credit who speaks your language and understands your challenges,” Mickey said. “Now that I’m a board member, I get to see things from the other side. It makes me even more proud to be a customer.”
Planning for the future
Mickey is dedicated to keeping the farm businesses running, not only for himself, but for his whole family. He works beside his dad, as well as his wife, Lisa, and his daughter, Lauren. His brother also manages the family’s timber operation.
“I would like my farm to continue for future generations,” Mickey said. “But we haven’t worked on a plan yet. That’s where Farm Credit, and my lending officer, Jack Hittinger, will help with their advice and guidance.”
Mickey and Jack have known each other ever since Jack joined the Farm Credit team. “Jack really cares about his job and the people he works with,” Mickey said. “He wants to see you succeed and keep your dream going.”
Jack feels a similar joy when it comes to working with Mickey. He said, “Mickey is one of a kind. He’s fearless in many ways, but also has his feet ﬁrmly planted on the ground. I consider it an honor to help make it even more possible for him to do that through the various loans we’ve worked on together.”