My mother was the farmer on our farm. Her father only had daughters, and my mom loved the farm so she went to agriculture school at the University of Kentucky. She didn't do all the physical work, but she ran the farm beautifully with contour plowing, always used cover crops, and protected her topsoil. She didn't get into the herbicides when everybody was going in that direction.
When I was a kid, we had 20 acres of tobacco, 40 to 60 heads of cattle, a milk cow, hogs, and chickens. We also had two teams of mules to mow certain areas of the farm that were too steep to get a tractor on. It was probably the last working small farm in Fayette County, Kentucky, because most of those farms had gone strictly conventional row-crop or were horse farms.
Lam: Did you go to agriculture school as well?
Harrod: I did not. When we were kids, mom dragged us around the fields with her. We grew up knowing this stuff, doing farm chores, and hearing the talk around the table about the crop, how they looked, and what diseases were happening.
We went with mom to the tobacco warehouse when we would sell the crop. Generally, we'd be stripping tobacco in late October if it was an early crop, but more often around Thanksgiving. There was a lot of time spent out in the barn in the stripping room, looking to see if the tobacco was in was in case [meaning the tobacco has picked up moisture from the atmosphere, and can be stripped off the stalk without shattering], and to get it down out of the barn. We learned how to cut tobacco, load it on the wagons, take it to the barns, and climb up in the rails and hang it.
To me, the only good thing about tobacco was that it was such a cohesive community crop. Everybody needed a lot of hands, so we would go back and forth to other farms to help with their crop. Then, they'd help with our crop. In the spring, you'd burn your beds. That was back before the methobromide fumigant was used.
There was so much to do raising a crop of tobacco, but it was the only crop that would give you the return that would pretty much consistently give you a profitable year, and give us enough money to live on. My dad worked a job. Hardly any farmers just farmed, unless they had huge amounts of land. We had a little over 400 acres.
Lam: What’s a typical day like for you?
Harrod: I basically get up, go down to the greenhouse, and water plants. I have a greenhouse where I live in Anderson County, and then I have a greenhouse at my farm in Fayette County, where the hemp is growing.
My brothers live at the family farm, so we help each other out with feeding hogs or watering plants. Then I help with other things around the farm such as moving and rolling bales, picking up tractor parts, going out and buying cattle, or showing up for veterinarian visits. My brother and I work well as a team on the farm, but for me, this is a busy time of year on landscaping. We're into the fall season now. I'll be mostly trying to work on landscape stuff and to put together a reserve of money before we head into the winter. I really like doing the work myself. I love everything about it, and it's kept me pretty darned healthy.