An Interview with Jennifer James, Fourth Generation Rice Farmer, Newport Arkansas
For Arkansas rice farmer Jennifer James, Mother’s Day lands right in the middle of the most important time of the year, planting season. We sat down with her to talk about being a mom, carrying out her family’s legacy and sowing seeds of wisdom to pass down to her son, Dylan. For her, celebrating Mother’s Day means not going out for brunch, but sharing a sandwich with her family on the turnrow, and that’s just fine with her.
Q: Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
A: I am a fourth generation rice farmer. We grow several varieties of rice, corn and soybeans on the land. After graduating from high school, I went away to college to learn about business, and my love for our family and the farm brought me back home. Today my husband, along with my 74-year-old father, my 17 year-old-son and I are carrying on our family’s legacy. I am proud to say our Hare Family Farm has been around for more than 100 years!
Q: What do you enjoy about farming?
A: Farming is not just a profession, but a way of life. It’s all I have ever known. I enjoy that farming has become so much more than planting a seed and watching it grow. Technology is changing the way we cultivate our grains and helping us to become even more efficient and sustainable. I love that people are interested in what we are doing in the field and I really enjoy sharing our story. I recently started a blog www.fieldgoodlife.com where I share stories about rice farming, our family and successful women in agriculture.
Q: Speaking of women in agriculture, how has the role of a female farmer changed over the years?
A: I was raised to believe I could achieve anything I set my mind to. And I have had unwavering support from my family and the rice industry over the years. Technology has made it much easier for women to be involved in production because the physical demands are not what they were in the past. I also think that women are more involved with decision-making today and are bringing diverse thinking and important viewpoints to the table.
Q: Does your son Dylan help you on the farm?
A: Dylan has loved the farm and playing in the dirt since he was born! Unlike other kids, he was not allowed to operate tractors and equipment until he was old enough to drive. So, he did a lot of manual labor like installing rice levee spills and mowing acres of grass. He learns quickly because he is so interested.
Q: What life lessons are you teaching Dylan?
A: We try to teach him lessons that will carry him into any profession, such as: work hard even when you don’t want to; be honest and reliable; always keep your word no matter how hard it may become; make eye contact when you shake hands; and always have manners.
Q: How do you typically celebrate Mother’s Day?
A: In May, we are right in the middle of planting season, so we do not have a big celebration. We often spend the day in the fields, either preparing beds or sowing seeds. That means Mother’s Day lunch may just be eating a sandwich together as a family on the turnrow, and that is just fine with me!
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being a mother?
A: Being a mother is not for the faint of heart! It’s challenging work with no instructions and new experiences every day. Now that Dylan is 17, it’s rewarding to see the independent, happy and positive man he is becoming. Also, when I see Dylan and my dad having a conversation about the farm together, there are no words to describe how wonderful that feels. And for me, that means the world.
Jennifer James is the 2017 Field to Market Farmer of the Year. She is a member of Riceland Foods, Kellogg’s supplier of rice for products like Kellogg’s Rice Krispies® and Special K® Original. She is also a participant in the Kellogg and Riceland Foods Field to Market sustainability program.