By Melissa Burniston
Farming is more than a 9-to-5 job. For farmers, it’s a 24-hour-a-day dedication to their land, their animals and the people who depend on them. For the Moore family, it’s also a privilege they don’t take for granted.
“It is an honor to produce quality food for our country and world,” says Ben Moore, who farms on 3,500 acres in Weakley County. “American agriculture is more than a lifestyle that 2 percent of our nation’s population enjoys. It is a quality of life that 100 percent have come to expect.”
He works with his parents, wife Jennifer and three boys to raise corn, soybeans, cattle, pigs and, more recently, vegetables.
Q: What is your biggest farming challenge?
A: Farming is a great occupation, but it does have its share of ups and downs. The weather has been challenging at best the past couple of years. Last year  was extremely dry, and our yields and profits were cut tremendously. Then, last spring was one of the wettest on record, which forced our crops to be planted late. The summer was another hot one, but our yields were relatively good. When you combine the unpredictable weather with record-high input costs [the money farmers put into their operation on the front end for items such as seed, feed and equipment], farming today is risky business to say the least.
Q: Recently you diversified your farm to include fruits and vegetables. How does that affect your operation?
A: Every farming operation is unique in its own way. Diversity can be a way to add extra income or, for me, it is a way to relieve stress associated with farming. We started raising vegetables two years ago, and then added half an acre of strawberries last year. I enjoy raising a product that people recognize as a superior one. My customers appreciate this and are repeat customers. I enjoy the interaction that comes from vegetable sales and plan to continue and grow this part of the farm in the future.
Q: How you explain your farming practices to people far removed from farm life?
A: Growing up a farmer in a rural area, I struggled to understand how some people could doubt the integrity of the American farmer. A trip to New York City opened my eyes to their misconceptions. New Yorkers are just like us – consumed with jobs and families. The closest farms are several hours away, and their knowledge about agriculture comes from the media, which is scary. When you think of it, residents of Nashville, Memphis and even Dresden are no different if they don’t know a farmer. Farmers need to do a better job of getting to know non-farmers by becoming involved in their children’s PTO, joining a civic club or using social media. Non-farmers desire to know more about agriculture, whether they learn from a farmer or the media, is up to us.
Q: What made you decide to carry on the family tradition of farming?
A: I think the driving force was a desire to be like my father. My childhood experiences cemented characteristics like hard work, respect, faith in God, family values and honesty into me. While in high school, as a bench-warming basketball player, I decided to make a choice to retire from basketball and start raising hogs. Through hours of begging, pleading and promising, I convinced my parents to help me build a new hog operation. Today, as a father myself, I continue to enjoy farming and working side by side with my father and children. Today’s agriculture is very challenging but is still a career that rewards hard work.
Q: You have three boys being raised on the farm. Will they become the fourth generation?
A: My parents never forced farming on me. We’ve implemented the same philosophy for our children. Our boys [including twins] are ages 5 and 2, and they have a full line of “farm equipment” and enjoy doing whatever dad is doing. If I’m shelling corn, Miller is harvesting corn in the living room while Tate and Tyler haul it to grain bins in the bedroom. They all enjoy riding on the real equipment, and I’m looking for a tractor with three small seats to accommodate them.
Q: You and your wife have been involved in leadership organizations for a while, do you think other young farmers should consider it important to include leadership development in their lives?
A: I have been involved in agricultural organizations since I got involved in 4-H in fourth grade. I was very active in the FFA both in high school and college. When Jennifer and I married, we became active members in the Weakley County Young Farmers and Ranchers. We feel it is important to network with other farmers to gain ideas and friendships. We see many farm couples who are not involved in farm organizations who do just fine, but for us the benefits of involvement have been indescribable.