News OYFF: More Changes Are In Store At Staceys’ Conecuh County Farm

OYFF: More Changes Are In Store At Staceys’ Conecuh County Farm

OYFF: More Changes Are In Store At Staceys’ Conecuh County Farm
October 1, 2008 |

Just a little more than a year after his marriage, Chip Stacey says his new bride is shaking things up around Stacey Farms.For one thing, the 87-year-old farmhouse built by his great grandfather finally has air-conditioning — something Chip once vowed would never happen.”About 78 or 80 degrees is all right with me,” he concedes, “Anything colder than that is getting too chilly.”The old farmhouse also has received a feminine touch, thanks to flowerbeds here and there. Then, there’s Chip’s Valentine gift to wife Lisa — a small flock of Cochin and Domanecker chickens which share quarters with a couple of ducks in a newly built chicken coop out back.And don’t forget the one-acre pumpkin patch behind the house.Plus, Lisa, true to her calling as a veterinarian, is so enamored by animals that she’s already put in requests for pygmy goats and a mammoth mule.”Next, we’ll have miniature horses, spider monkeys, zebra and yak,” Chip said shaking his head. “If we keep on, instead of Stacey Farms we’re going to be a funny farm!”Right now, however, Chip and Lisa — the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Wheat & Feed Grains Division — will settle for the more serious business of Stacey Farms, a diverse operation that includes 120 acres of wheat, 120 acres of soybeans, 300 acres of corn, 400 head of commercial cattle, 1,220 acres of timber and more deer than hunters can handle.In late August, the Conecuh County couple kept a nervous watch on the weather as Tropical Storm Fay churned in the Gulf of Mexico. “The pressure dropped but then went back up. That’s a sign of weakening, but they keep saying that it’s going to be Category 2 by the time it gets in the Gulf,” said Chip.”The storm’s got us very concerned. I’ve still got 233 acres of corn in the field, and we’re maxed out (on storage) down there.”Until this year, grain storage hadn’t been an issue. But with corn fetching the best prices ever, wheat production up and soybeans making a comeback, farmers all across the state have had to re-evaluate their storage capacity.”Last year the drought was so bad we didn’t fill up but one grain bin of corn. So we weren’t being pushed,” said Chip, noting that the farm had three 5,000-bushel bins at that time. “We had a few more acres this year, and we’ve got a fairly decent crop. It’s nothing to write home about — the corn’s been averaging 80 bushels an acre. That’s not spectacular … we’d gotten used to the 150- to 165-bushel range, but after three years of the drought getting our corn, I’m not complaining.”He’s not complaining either about the June wheat harvest. “At harvest, we averaged around 78 bushels on our wheat,” Chip said. “As a matter of fact, we’re sitting here holding every bit of it right now, sitting down there with two bins slam full.”Since June, he’s been trying to get a fourth bin installed. “But I guess with the wheat thing this year, so many bins have been refurbished and new bins are being installed the parts I need have been on back order,” he said.The heightened interest in grains and tenuous market conditions, coupled with the one-two-three punch of hurricane seasons, recently prompted Chip to rent another bin for corn from a farmer who went out of business back in 2002.”We cleaned it out, and made sure everything was up and good,” said Chip. “But it woke me up. It’s fall. I’ve still got beans to harvest. I haven’t got room for beans right now — something’s got to go. Hopefully, I’ll have all the wheat gone by the time I get ready to harvest soybeans.”But my goal is to put up at least three more 5,000-bushel bins, and that should put me to the point where I can hold all my crop and be able to sit on every bit of it until I want to sell. I’ve learned you can’t have too much storage because, on good, jam-up crop years like in ’02 and ’03 when we had some of the best yields this farm ever produced, these four bins wouldn’t have held the corn. Then I would still be sitting there: Where do I put my wheat? Where do I put my soybeans?”Not all of the Staceys’ soybeans, however, will make it to harvest. That’s because deer have eaten up about 50 acres. “They’re just ravenous this year. They are working ’em over,” said Chip. “But I’ve got to take the good with the bad; the hunting part of our operation here on Stacy Farms is going to be good — we’re going to have some good deer this year, probably some good horns and probably a number of deer that weigh over 200 pounds. But bushel-to-the-acre, the beans aren’t going to be that great.”Meanwhile, Lisa’s been doing her part too, whether driving the combine during the wheat harvest or commuting 221 miles roundtrip to her full-time job at a small animal veterinary clinic in Mobile. “It’s really good experience,” Lisa says. “They have an orthopedic surgeon on staff, and I like watching him and learning from him. … I wanted to go somewhere that I could practice really good, high-quality medicine. And they have good diagnostic tools, and that makes a big difference.”Still, she’s not about to give up her dream of being a large animal veterinarian. “Oh, I’m definitely getting experience here,” she says with a laugh. “I can always palpate cows.”
Chip beams with pride at the work she’s done with their own herd. “She’s been working with the cowherd, vaccinating, tagging our calves,” said Chip. “She’s got all of our stuff on computer now. She’s got a record on the cattle, and we’ve mouthed every cow and checked their teeth.”Chip admits, too, that the new air-conditioning unit in their farmhouse was all Lisa’s idea, just as it was her idea to bring live ducks back from a duck hunt and her idea to plant an acre of pumpkins that she plans to sell to stores this month.Yep, there are plenty of changes taking place at Stacey Farms. But the one thing that’s certain to change this fourth-generation farm forever is a fifth generation, due to arrive March 2. The Staceys don’t know (at this writing) whether it’s a boy or girl, only that the first sonogram earned the child the nickname “Peanut.”
“Chip did tell me that he’d have it on the tractor on the first day he comes home,” said Lisa, shaking her head. “I said, ‘I don’t think so!'”
“I’ll keep you posted,” Chip counters with a grin. “Because March 2 is right in the heat of planting, and when the baby comes home, he’ll have to go plant 40 acres.””She!” says Lisa. “You always say ‘he’ but you don’t know. Could be a little girl.””She, he, it. Whatever,” said Chip. “By the time he’s standing, I expect him to be putting in a full day’s work. If it is a girl, she’s going to know how to work, that’s for sure.”

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