West Texas brothers make the most of minimum tillage.
West Texas farmers Rolan and Randy Petty realize they can’t change the amount of moisture they receive from Mother Nature. So instead they have changed their farming practices to conserve the soil moisture she does give them.
For the past seven years, the Petty brothers have farmed without heavy tillage, at the same time choosing improved seed varieties. The results include higher yields and lower fuel bills on their Nolan-area farm, called RR Ranch, where they are partners with other family members.
“We’re really proud of the way we’ve been able to cut the number of trips across the field to reduce compaction and utilize the natural growth of the roots to do all of our deep tillage,” Rolan says. “We’re trying to conserve as much moisture as we can in West Texas. We are totally dryland, and we have no other sources of moisture, so we are really farming by faith.”
The family’s switch to minimum tillage began when their father, Robert R. Petty Jr., bought a John Deere MaxEmerge planter 12 years ago.
“We saw the potential and ran with it,” says Randy. “We’ve got it down to a science — customizing equipment with our own spin.”
A Good Fit With Lone Star
One of only a few farm families in Nolan County that has adopted minimum tillage, the Pettys are grateful that their lender, Lone Star Ag Credit, trusted their decision to switch.
Second-generation Lone Star customers, Rolan and Randy first financed ranchland with the lending co-op in 1989. In 2003 they added a line of operating credit. Today, RR Ranch is a 5,000-acre operation, consisting of 3,000 acres of dryland cotton and a rotation of wheat or fallow land, plus pasture for 50 head of commercial Angus cattle.
“It’s a real comfortable fit being with Lone Star Ag Credit,” Rolan says. “They are able to address our needs and concerns. They really work closely with us. They know how things are going throughout the year, and there are no surprises at the end of the year. They help us grow when we need to, and help us through the lean years.”
The Petty brothers appreciate a strong working relationship with their loan officer, Jason Jones, vice president of the Sweetwater branch, who encourages them as they build for the future.
“He understands our needs and where we come from, because he grew up here,” says Randy. “He understands us more than an ordinary banker would.”
Patronage Payments a Plus
Another factor that sets Lone Star apart from other lenders is the cooperative’s patronage refunds, according to Rolan, who still recalls the first patronage check they received about 15 years ago in the springtime, long after the previous year’s cattle and crops had been sold.
“It was interesting to have income at that time of year. It was pretty neat,” says Rolan. “You really got the feeling that you were part of a co-op — that it was an institution that wasn’t just for itself, but it was for other people, that you are part of something bigger.”
Although the Petty brothers have received numerous patronage payments since, they don’t take patronage for granted.
“I see it as a benefit— like a loyalty reward. It helps whenever you are looking at financing from other institutions. Definitely you have to factor the patronage in. It makes Lone Star very competitive with other lenders,” Rolan says.
Agriculture has been a big part of the Petty brothers’ lives ever since they played with their toys in the backyard dirt and rode tractors with their dad. But Rolan says it wasn’t until he was studying agricultural systems management at Texas A&M University that he realized hands-on farming was the career for him.
Farming + Family = Success
Today, the brothers largely credit the success of their farming partnership to their family relationships.
“It’s a big advantage to have somebody who knows exactly what it takes to get it done,” Randy says. “Where we come from, understanding one another and having the exact same goals — we probably couldn’t do this without each other.”
As brothers and parents, they believe that a farm or ranch is the best place to raise their children. The lifestyle allows for when parents need to take time off to attend a school function or a sports event, Rolan explains, and to be there for their children.
“We’re trying to pass down a good work ethic to our kids and the next generation,” he says. “This is a great way of life. It builds strong character in people.”