Fluffy white cotton explodes over 3,000 acres of farmland tended by Wade C. Hodges III, and he is humbled by the fact that each plant starts with a single seed.
The recently named 2017 Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce Farmer of the Year, Hodges farms because he loves it.
Having grown up immersed in the life, the third-generation Bulloch County farmer grows row crops. This year he tended 400 acres of corn, 1,300 acres of peanuts and 3,000 acres of cotton.
That is his favorite crop – the “Southern snow” that transforms vast fields from green to white each fall, a crop that was once known as “king” across the South.
Cotton is “fun to grow,” he said. “I just like to watch it grow – I like to put seed in the ground and see what you get out of it.”
Hodges was born into the farm life and grew up on the land his grandfather, W.C. Hodges, bought in the early 1900s, located in the Middleground community. His grandfather built the family home in 1912, and Hodges’ mother Jane Hodges lives there still today.
Hodges’ father, W. C. Hodges Jr., continued the family legacy, and when Wade Hodges was born, farming was evidently in his blood. He grew up helping on the farm, but in 1980, he started farming on his own, he said. “And I’ve been going ever since.”
In between tending his own land, Hodges also managed Terry Gerrald’s Clito-area farm for 10 years.
Home to the farm
He continued farming while he worked for Blanchard Equipment, selling John Deere products. He still works for the company on a part time, “limited” basis, working deals in between harrowing fields, planting crops and harvesting them.
But coaxing life and productivity from the soil is what makes Hodges go. No matter what, his heart always goes home to the farm.
Visibly emotional as he accepted the Chamber’s “Farmer of the Year” Award, he praised other area farmers who were shown on a video during the Chamber’s annual Farm City Week meeting, held Nov. 17 at the Natural Resources Building at Ogeechee Technical College.
In speaking about his love for agriculture, he said “It’s all I ever did.”
Hodges works his land with the help of his brother Paul Hodges. Their mother still brings them lunch in the field, and his children Amber Hodges, 27, and W. C. Hodges IV, 22, enjoy the farm life as well, he said.
Farming is a great deal of hard work, dusty days on tractors, watching the weather and timing planting, tilling and harvest times around the weather report. Some years the end result is good, and other years leave behind a great deal of worry.
“Sometimes we have depressed prices, but then those are the years we have a good yield,” he said with a laugh. “You have to have a lot of faith. You pray for rain one day and pray it doesn’t the next.”
During the Farm City Week luncheon, sponsored by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce’s agribusiness committee, Hodges sat with a room full of other farmers, unsuspecting as committee chairman Andrea Whitfield began speaking.
The identity of the annual award recipient is kept secret until the meeting, where clues are dropped before the recipient is named.
Whitfield read from several comments Hodges’ friends and family said about him, adding that he received more nominations than anyone else this year.
Friends said “he stays close to his roots – faith, family and farming;” “He is never too busy to help neighbors, family and friends;” and “To most people, they see dirt. A farmer sees potential. (Hodges) always find a way,” she said.
Whitfield became emotional as she read words from Hodges’ children describing how they watched him work hard as they grew up, teaching them to always help others and showing them by example as a perfect role model. They said “he is the most selfless man we know,” she read.
Hodges appeared stunned as he approached the podium to accept the honor. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I don’t know who you did it (kept his nomination a secret) but you did and I appreciate it. A lot of people have helped me more than they realize.”
Later, in speaking to the Statesboro Herald, he said “Bulloch County is the best place to be. It is fortunate to have some real good folks.”
Farm City Week celebrates partnerships between the residents and businesses of the city and those who live in rural areas and are involved in agricultural businesses.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.