Operating a farm never proves to be an easy way to make a living, but starting a farm from the ground up presents new challenges a small portion of today’s population willingly takes on.
Walt and Ashley Rambo are a part of those few. After graduating from Mississippi State University, the couple decided to start a row crop farm where they grow rice, soybeans and corn.
“I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, where I had the opportunity to work on a nearby farm,” Walt says. “I really enjoyed it, so I went to Mississippi State to study agricultural science. That’s where Ashley and I met. After graduating, Ashley’s grandfather helped me rent 46 acres in east Mississippi, and buy some older, used equipment. From there, we ended up renting her grandfather’s 135 acres.”
After farming for several years around West Point, the Rambos were given the opportunity to rent some land in Inverness, were they currently farm.
“We just started out extremely small, and then, fortunately, were able to grow a little bit every year,” Walt says.
Now, more than 10 years after starting, the Rambos have implemented several state-of-the-art practices to their rice fields.
“We use alternate wetting and drying techniques, which is a new cultural practice,” Walt says. “Instead of keeping a constant flood on the rice, we let the rice draw the water down until it is a sloppy mud versus a constant flood. At that point, we then re-flood the rice. With this practice, we’re seeing energy and water savings.”
The Rambos utilize this technique in hopes of helping conserve water in the Mississippi Delta aquifer.
“Rice is a taxing crop on the aquifer because it requires water not only for irrigation, but for weed control and disease control,” Walt says. “If we can find a way to use 50 percent less water, we are furthering our efforts of being stewards of the aquifer.”
In addition to their water conservation practices, the Rambos use an immense amount of technology to keep their farm running.
“Our entire operation has telemetry,” Walt says. “I have water depth meters in my rice fields that send a report to my phone several times a day. I have remote sensing which allows me to cut the wells on and off without actually being there.”
Although Ashley assists on the farm, she also works as a registered nurse in outpatient surgery at Greenwood-Leflore Hospital.
“I work off the farm in order to provide additional financial security to our family,” Ashley says. “My job is flexible though, which allows me to be there for Walt and our kids.”
“As a first generation farmer, you can our run your equity position quickly,” Walt adds. “Ashley’s additional income and insurance allows us to continue growing the farm. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her.”