Runnels County farmer and rancher Gary Jacob said he really acquired a wealth of knowledge during his two years with the Texas Farm Bureau's Farm Lead program.

Runnels County farmer and rancher Gary Jacob said he really acquired a wealth of knowledge during his two years with the Texas Farm Bureau’s Farm Lead program.

Jacob, 65, farms cotton, wheat and sunflowers and has a cow-calf operation off of Highway 153 where he lives with his wife Dinell, a retired teacher.

Jacob was one of 12 participants from across Texas who participated in the Farm Lead V program that is designed for xperienced farmers and ranchers ages 40 and above. The members travel across Texas and the U.S. to discuss agricultural policy with elected officials and industry representatives.

Jacob, and other members of the group, traveled first to Waco, then to Austin to meet with legislators, which he said was a very important leg of the program.

During their trip to the state capital, they walked the capital and discussed issues important to producers, such as eminent domain.

“We talked to anyone who would listen,” Jacob said. “I want fair treatment for all producers when it comes to right of ways.”

They also discussed issues regarding brackish water, which farmers and ranchers use for irrigation and for cattle.

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wanted to take control over brackish water,” Jacob said.

While in Austin, the group also met with State Representative Drew Darby, Senator Charles Perry and State Representative Kyle Kahal.

“The (Texas) Farm Bureau carries a big stick on getting in with politicians,” Jacob said.

The group would take trips to Chicago, Washington, D.C. and California during the 2015-16 Farm Lead program.

In Chicago, the group would go to the Mercantile, where they watched all types of commodities being traded.

The highlight of his trip, however, was a trip to Fair Oaks Farms, where five doctors have a substantial dairy operation on 37,000 acres in Indiana. Jacob said he was fascinated with how smoothly the massive operation ran.

“They milk 33,000 cows a day, three times a day,” Jacob said, adding that they haul 60 loads of milk out of the dairy daily.

He was also interested in their hog barns, which they called “farrow to finish” barns. He also said that between 80-100 calves are born per day.

But the farm is completely self-sustaining – all of the manure is used not only to fertilize the land, but it also powers the operation via methane gas.

They would go on to a whiskey and vodka distillery as well, which Jacob said was enlightening.

Jacob would also visit a corn farmer in Illinois, who had four feeder houses and fed his cattle with corn.

“I learned about recycling and efficiency,” Jacob said.

When he returned from the Chicago trip, he purchased his first herd of “mama cows.” Now he has 50 “mama cows” with his sons Craig and Brent.

The group would also go on to Washington, where they met with Congressman Mike Conaway who is the chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.

They also toured farms in California. Where he too went to the farm that grows the jalapenos for Pace Picante Sauce.

“There is no heat in the peppers,” he said. “They spice the picante sauce with habaneros.”

Overall, Jacob said he liked the tour of Fair Oaks Farms the best

The other members of Farm Lead V group included Kenneth Schlabs of Deaf Smith County, Justin Light of Lubbock County, Steve McGuire of Haskell County, Randall Mints of Wilbarger County, Jerry Moody of Titus County, Steven Hoelscher of Tom Green County, Warren Cude of Pecos County, Robert Atwood of Taylor County, Patricia Snook of Polk County, Dianne Paben of Waller County and Janice Ohrt of Victoria County.

Jacob said that other farmers and ranchers should participate. Those who are eligible must be a Texas Farm Bureau member.

“It was very enjoyable,” Jacob said. “I’d like to keep in touch with everyone in this group.”