A cattleman’s son and the star quarterback, 43 years ago Melvin Adams found himself torn between following his football dream and taking over the family farm. While he loved sports deeply, Melvin’s love of the land was stronger. When the time came to make decisions about his future career path he didn’t think twice: he would follow in the footsteps of his father and become a farmer. Looking back, Melvin says he has no regrets—none at all.
Melvin, his wife, Carolyn, and one of their sons, Jason, run Adams Farms in Graceville, Florida, a Panhandle town not far from the Alabama border. Melvin and Jason manage livestock and row crops while Carolyn manages the increasingly complex bookkeeping that comes with running a 21st century farm.
The Adams’ grow peanuts, corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat, run a large cow-calf operation and have recently added a heifer replacement business to their operation, all on 1,500 acres. Through their new heifer replacement business, the Adams’ share the results of years of excellent breeding practices with clients across the Southeast, practices that date back to Melvin’s great-grandfather.
Considering his career in agriculture thus far, Melvin’s thinking turned philosophical. “I don’t have much time to ponder how far I’ve come, but when I do…when I think about all the things I’ve done…it’s still astounding to me,” he said. “It’s been a long journey and mostly a pleasant one.”
The “mostly” refers to what Melvin calls the “swings of agriculture.”
“Like everyone, we’ve had some tough times,” Melvin noted. “The worst for me was the drought of 1977…it lingered until 1980 here. The difference back then was that the cost of production per acre allowed me to overcome it. If we were to have one now, well, it would be a lot tougher to get through. It does leave me with an uneasy feeling.”
Adams Farm made it through the drought of 1977, however it wasn’t the only swing that Melvin has witnessed throughout his career. When things have gotten tough, Melvin knows he can turn to Stephen Roach, his lending agent at Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.
“Melvin Adams is a strong producer and really knows his business,” Stephen said. “But it’s his open-mindedness that makes him unique. This is a producer willing to try new things and take new paths, not do the same thing every year just because that’s how he’s always done it. That’s a great attribute for a farmer.”
Over the years, Melvin and Stephen have both learned and grown because of the other. As Jason started taking on more of the farm responsibilities, Stephen suggested that Melvin create a transition plan. Once the partnership had been made official, Stephen took things a step further, helping the family apply for a special guaranteed loan option from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for which a beginning farmer like Jason could qualify.
“Stephen knows all about how that stuff works, and it was a huge advantage for us since Farm Credit is a preferred FSA lender.”
Stephen, on the other hand, has learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in agriculture from Melvin. “I think what impresses me most is that what makes him a strong producer is how he’s learned from his mistakes and pitfalls and strives to come out better on the other side,” Stephen said. “He always comes out smarter, too.”
In addition to the work that Melvin does on the farm, he is also committed to giving back to his community. He does so by serving on the Farm Credit of Northwest Florida board of directors. “Farmers and ag-related businesses all need a trusted source of credit,” Melvin said. “I got on the board because I wanted to have the opportunity to help Farm Credit continue to grow and prosper…to be able to pay back dividends to its members for generations to come.”
Melvin also serves on the board of directors for several other local organizations.
“Giving back is just something Mr. Adams is compelled to do,” Stephen said. “When he talks about farming, you can see him light up…he loves what he does, and he enjoys sharing his passion and sharing ideas. People recognize that he knows his stuff. When he speaks, they listen.”