Morris To Compete For 2010 Farmer Of Year
A grower of conventional cotton varieties, Roy “Shep” Morris of Shorter uses a stripper machine for harvesting, chicken litter for fertilizer, ridge tillage for planting and corn as both a rotation crop and cover crop. He has raised soil organic matter levels and produced
excellent dryland yields.As a result of his success as a row crop farmer, Morris’ farming operation was selected last February as Alabama’s Farm of Distinction winner, a title that qualified him to represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year
competition in Moultrie, Ga., this month.He now joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show. A full-time farmer for 25 years, he currently farms 3,450 acres with 2,600 acres of rented land and 850 acres of owned land. His crop mix includes cotton on 1,500 acres yielding 800 pounds per acre, corn on 850 acres yielding 145 bushels per acre, and soybeans on 600 acres yielding 40 bushels per acre. He also raises timber on about 500 acres and has about 100 acres in pecan production.”My grandfather was a farmer, and my father was an aerial applicator,” he recalls. “I wanted to farm from an early age. My grandfather started farming in 1913 and grew
his last crop in 1978.”Morris bought a tractor andused his grandfather’s equipment during his early years in farming. He grew his first crop of cotton at age 18, and then followed his dad by becoming an aerial applicator.Eventually, he gave up the aerial application business to farm fulltime, but does his own flying.”Crop rotation is one reason for our yields,” he says. “We grow no cotton where cotton grew the previous year. We use chicken litter to build soil organic matter. We also use an implement called a One-Trip Plow behind our corn combine. It buries the stalks, builds a raised bed, and leaves a good place for growing cotton.”He says his crop planting method is a version of ridge tillage. “Corn is our cover crop for cotton,” he adds. The One Trip Plow incorporates corn seed missed by the combine. This seed germinates and provides a growing cover until it is killed by frost.He farms both river bottomland and black prairie soils that hold moisture well. Planting on raised beds helps his crops escape damage from too much water. “If it is dry in the spring, I shave two inches of soil from the top of the bed so I can plant into moisture,” he explains. “If spring conditions are wet, I plant on top of the bed.”Morris volunteers his time and talents to a number of organizations, including chairmanship of the Wheat and Feed Grains Committee of the Alabama Farmers Federation. His wife, Marguerite “Rite” Morris, is the daughter of a cotton farmer. They married in 1979. She helps out on the farm by scouting cotton for insects during the summer and hauling boll buggies during the fall.They have three adult children. Their oldest, Shep, Jr., is a first lieutenant in the Alabama Army National Guard and is serving as a Chinook helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. He will return to the farm when his deployment ends. Their son, J. W., is in the Marine Corps Reserves and has served two tours in Iraq. He is a student at Auburn University at Montgomery and works for an engineering firm. Their daughter, Beverly, lives on the farm and is a registered nurse employed by Baptist Hospital East in Montgomery.As the Alabama state winner, Morris is now eligible for the $15,000 prize that will go to the overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, a custom-made Canvasback gun safe from Misty Morn Safe Co., $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, a Williamson-Dickie jacket, $500 gift certificate and $500 in cash to the overall winner.