For over 50 years, Richard Terry has worked the same land as his father did before him and not once, not ever, has he considered doing anything else with his life. Along with farming, Terry has been active on several ag-related boards, including his current stint as chairman of the board with Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.
“Farming and agriculture…they’re everything to me…it’s what I’ve always done,” says Terry. “Watching things grow…the harvest…and thanking God for it all. These things still give me the same satisfaction.”
Terry, along with his son, Henry, and grandson, William, row crop 500 acres and tend 175 acres of timberland on their Madison County farm in northwest Florida. Family history rides along daily with the Terry men as they work their land—just about a mile or so up the road is where his great-great grandmother, Terry, first settled back in the 1800s, and even closer are the resting places of his father, mother, great-grandparents, and grandparents behind the church he and his wife, Edith, attend.
“My great-great grandma moved here from Alabama in 1878 with a bunch of grown sons and daughters. Not sure if her husband had died, but she came alone with the children,” recalls Terry. “My granddad was six months old at the time.” Terry says he’s not sure why they moved, but chuckles as he wonders if they were “runnin’ from the law.”
It’s typical Richard Terry. The 72-year old has a wonderful sense of humor which has probably helped him get through the many ups and downs of being a farmer.
“Last year the hurricane got some of the crops, but we’re hoping for a better year. I should say these days, my son and grandson do most of the work…I’m out there but mostly I’m in the way,” he jokes.
He’s Seen It All
After 50 or so planting seasons, Terry has seen his share of changes in how things are done. He marvels at how technology has exploded over the last two decades.
“Compared to the high-tech seeds we have available now…I remember the days when we went to the corn crib and used our own crop to seed the next year,” he recalls. “And the guidance systems for our tractors…I can run’em but don’t ask me to program’em!”
Even so, Terry considers himself an early adopter.
“My daddy was a man that changed slowly…he’d watch things a few years before he would adopt them,” says Terry. “but me, I’m a little different…I jump on faster. You’ve got to change as change comes around, you can’t stay where you’re at forever.”
Terry adds with pride though that his dad was a pioneer in one area—irrigation. “He put in one of the first systems in the community. maybe even in the county. It wasn’t anything like what we have now. but it was way ahead of its time.”
Committed to Giving Back
When Terry isn’t sitting in the cab of a combine or tractor, his work with the Madison County Farm Bureau and chairing the Farm Credit board of directors fill the rest of his time.
Just like his father before him did in his day, Terry has turned to Farm Credit for loans since the 1960s.
“I got my first loan there to build poultry houses…and I’ve turned to them ever since for land purchases, operating loans…irrigation loans, equipment loans…you name it. And my son has been a borrower there for 10 or 15 years.”
“The farming industry is a tough business to be in,” says Terry’s current loan officer, Bill Bassett. “The margins are not that great. Mr. Terry continues to make his farm a productive farm by using his experience, knowledge, and planning skills year after year. He’s as organized and prepared as they come.”
Terry has nothing but praise for Bassett and the entire Farm Credit team and says he appreciates how motivated all of them are to get out into the communities and understand what makes them tick.
“They don’t just sit and wait for business,” he says, “they get out and mix and mingle. They understand agriculture and our needs…and even if they didn’t come from farming, their interest is deep. I don’t think you can be a successful loan officer without learning about the people you serve.”
Bassett says the same thing about Terry. “He keeps up with the farm industry in and around Madison County and his perspective is especially valuable for the management team because he still farms himself. Plus, he’s one of the most approachable people I know.”
Will the Next Generation Be There?
As for his work with the Board, Terry says he gets tremendous satisfaction participating in work that ultimately contributes to Madison County’s future farmers and the local economy.
“I get a lot of satisfaction that maybe working together we can make things a little better for agriculture and the people that come after us…the younger generation…”
He says his only concern is that the younger generation may not be there to take over the helm. “It’s not easy to attract younger people to sitting on boards…they’re far busier these days. I don’t ever remember my dad running a tractor after dark. Now, as long as weather don’t stop them, the GPS guides them. Plus, kids are involved in a lot more activities and both parents are right there with them these days.”
Still, Terry has hope that the next generation will realize the importance of giving back just as he has. “The idea of givin’ back to the folks that came before you and laying the foundation for the ones that will come after…that’s why I do it. That’s why everyone needs to do it.”