In high cotton

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2005

Special to the Times-Journal

MONTGOMERY &045; Jay and Julia Anne Minter of

Dallas County are among six finalists who will compete for the title of Outstanding Young Farm Family when the Alabama Farmers Federation holds its 84th Annual Meeting in Mobile Dec. 4-5.

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Earlier this year, the Minters were selected as the state’s Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Peanut Division. At the meeting in Mobile, they will compete against other finalists in the Beef, Peanut, Pork, Wheat and Feed Grains and Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Divisions. The Outstanding Young Farm Family will receive a home computer and the year’s use of a sports utility vehicle.

A part of the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Young Farmers Division sponsors the contest to recognize young farm families and farmers between the ages of 17 and 35 who are doing an outstanding job in their farm, home and community activities.

Jay Minter does not consider himself a typical farmer, even though he grew up on his family’s

Dallas County farm. In high school, he liked to spend his summer mornings scouting cotton and his summer afternoons reading philosophy.

After high school, Minter attended Rhodes College in Memphis, where he studied philosophy and religion.

Minter returned to his family’s cotton operation in 1995 after graduating, working mainly as an errand runner at first. He planned on being able to learn the ins and outs of running the farm from his father over the course of several years – slowly taking the reins as his father got older. But this was not meant to be.

In the summer of 1996, Minter’s father was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer. Suddenly, the young farmer found his timetable was much shorter than he ever could have anticipated. He spent a lot of time with his father trying to learn everything he could that couldn’t be written down.

Minter’s father passed away in February 1997, leaving his son to run the family farm and gin at the age of 24. Fortunately, Minter still had the farm’s longtime manager, David Casey, to help run the farming operation and manage the family’s timberland while Minter ran his father’s cotton gin.

It was in the months following his father’s death that Minter met Julia Anne, whom he married a few months later.

In January 1999, David was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was able to continue working through May. He died in August.

The first couple of years were a challenge for Minter, who was still learning how to run the farm on his own. But he managed to pull through and learn along the way.

In 2000, Minter, along with other farmers in the area, faced one of the worst droughts in 50 years. While his dry land only yielded around half a bale of cotton per acre, the land he had installed irrigation on since returning from college yielded two and a half bales per acre. This led Minter to look at irrigating more of his land. He began experimenting with subterranean drip irrigation for fields too small for center pivot irrigation.

In 2002, Minter decided to close the family gin, in part because operating the gin meant he had to grow only cotton to &8220;feed the gin.&8221; This meant he could not get the benefit of crop rotation. Minter joined with three other farmers to create one consolidated gin to replace the four they had all run separately. The next season, he replaced some of his cotton with corn and peanuts.

Minter still raises a good bit of cotton, but not to the level that his father and grandfather produced. Last year, he planted 1,005 acres of cotton, which yielded 975 pounds per acre, along with 350 acres of corn that yielded 120 bushels an acre and 550 acres of peanuts that yielded more than 3,700 pounds per acre. He also has a small cattle herd of 23 head.

Minter is looking to continue his row crop production at current levels for the next few years. He also is looking at the possibilities of expanding his cattle production and raising specialty crops.

Minter lives in Selma with his wife and their two children, Gilley, 7, and &8220;Cink&8221;(James Anthony Minter V), 2. Cink is the Old English word for five. They also are expecting another addition to the family in January.

Both Minters are active in their community, serving in many different organizations. Jay Minter has served on committees for the Kiwanis Club, YMCA and United Way. Julie Anne Minter is involved with the Selma Charity League and is a tutor and reader in the Selma public schools. Both are soccer coaches for the Selma YMCA.

The Minters enjoy the opportunity to raise their children in an agricultural environment. They also value any help they can provide for their community.