Inside his farm shop, Andy Herring removed a tractor air filter and cleaned it using an air hose.
“All of this stuff will generate problems if you don’t clean it,” he said as the air blew funky dust off the filter.
Two days ago, the tractor was sitting in a turkey house.
“You couldn’t tell what color it was,” Herring said looking at the green John Deere he was cleaning. “It’s a dirty job over there and that ammonia and litter is really rough on equipment.”
The tractor is about 11 years old and Herring has made good use of it so far. He plans for that to continue at Andy Herring Farms. It’s one of several things he’ll be doing this month to prepare for the next farm season.
“When you get right down to it, it’s throwing a proverbial dart hoping that you hit a bullseye,” he said about predicting how each season will be. “You can plan all you want, but you set a target date and you don’t know if Mother Nature is going to agree or disagree with you.”
Spring will be here soon and Herring is not going to let it sneak up on him.
“The number one thing on our list is planning,” Herring said about preparing 900 acres of land to grow corn, wheat and soybeans.
Some of that include ordering seeds, which is not an easy task, he admitted.
“It’s hard to get your hands on sometimes, because different parts of the country are looking for them as well,” Herring said. “We try to find the ones that are best suitable for our farm.”
During this time, other tasks include collecting soil samples, picking the right places for crop location and managing costs by ordering things at good times to receive discounts.
Warm winter days allow Herring and his assistants to clean up outside. That was especially necessary following Hurricane Matthew, which devastated Sampson County.
“We had many trees to get up and we dealt with that already,” he said. “We clean out a lot of ditch valves so we can help keep farms drained a little better.”
Herring also plans to put dry fertilizer on most of the acres, prepare seedbeds and fertilize wheat. He also must construct a spring burn-down, to prepare for the next cycle of crops.
On days when the weather is not pleasant, he does a lot of maintenance work, such as inspections and service on anything mobile.
“Equipment maintenance is a big deal for me,” Herring pointed out. “We try to do as much preseason maintenance as possible.”
When spring rolls around, Herring wants to be ready to plant seeds for a good harvest.
“Whenever we’re ready to get in the field, we can make eight or 10 hours count,” he said. “We’re not spending four or five of those hours going to a dealership to pick up a part for something that shouldn’t have been overlooked. We look over everything with a fine-tooth comb to make sure we’re getting that accuracy like we want.”
The fourth generation farmer and owner of Andy Herring Farming was born and raised on the family land near Newton Grove. His family story dates back to the early 1900s, when his great-grandparents and grandparents began sharecropping. Garrett Herring, Andy’s father, returned to the farm shortly after high school. Garrett worked for IBM for a short stint.
“It was a very prestigious job to land in the ’60s for a kid out in the country,” Herring said about his late dad. “He was excited about it at first, but he couldn’t stand to be trapped in a box. He came back home to farm and it really exploded well in the ’70s and ’80s.”
Years later, Herring followed in his dad’s footsteps. After graduating from high school, Herring attended North Carolina State University and made a living from farm jobs. In addition to raising turkeys, he returned in 2002 to grow crops.
For Herring, one of the best aspects of being a farmer is being outside and producing a good product for livestock and people to pick up in grocery stores.
“I’m a nature person,” he said. “I enjoy starting a crop every year and seeing it come along.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.