Of the 180,000 acres of land farmed in Daviess County, only one third is actually planted and harvested by the owner of the acreage, according to Clint Hardy, a Daviess County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. The other two thirds, Hardy says, is rented out to individuals making a living from farming, but in most cases don’t own enough land themselves to sustain a full-time operation.
One of those farmers is 28-year old Jason Hagan. Farming has been in Jason’s family for the last 50 years he estimates. His grandfather owned what was then Hagan’s Saw Shop, which is Hagan’s Outdoor Equipment today. At that time Hagan’s grandfather “farmed on the homeplace.” It wasn’t until Hagan’s father that full-time farming began in the family.
Jason farmed for his father some, but was employed at Owensboro Grain for a period of time as well at a machine shop. But in 2014, he opted to return to the farm full-time and has been behind the wheel of a tractor ever since.
“It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to be on the farm more than at a public job,” Hagan said. “I just like farming.”
Jason, his father and brother operate Darrell Hagan Farms out of Whitesville. They currently work 2,700 acres, but they only own 300. Jason says in his business, word of mouth is the best way to attract business.
“We just try to do a good job and make sure landowners are happy,” Hagan said.
Hardy says there are 800 farm businesses in Daviess County, with half of those making farming their full-time employment, just like the last two generations of Hagans.
While Jason is following his father’s path, he says that a lot has changed since his father began the business decades ago, namely the technology.
“The first combine my dad rode didn’t have a cab,” Hagan said. “Now combines drive themselves.”
But one thing that remains the same is the time a farmer will put in to the job. Hagan says he averages 8 to 10 hour days, but right now, during harvest season, it’s more like 14 to 16 hours each day.
The Hagans plant corn, soybeans and six acres of tobacco. The family also manages four chicken houses for Purdue, which helps keep them busy all year long.
Hardy says corn and soybeans represent 120,000 acres of Daviess County crops and agricultural production brings in $125 to $130 million locally.
“Daviess County is 300,000 acres and farmland, grass and forage represents 60 percent of that,” Hardy said. “Just over 3,000 people are associated with the farmland industry.”
Hardy says that if each of those 3,000 people has at least two close connections, whether it be a spouse, child or heir, then 11 percent of the Daviess County population is directly affiliated with ag production, and this doesn’t even take into consideration the business and industry that support agriculture.
For Jason Hagan, farming is all he has ever known. What does the future look like? Well, after all his crops are harvested, he says it will be time to clean up the equipment, store it away for the winter and start planning for next year’s crop. And when asked if he will always be a farmer, Jason’s answer is simple.
“Lord willing, is what Papaw would say.”