Runnels County farmers gather for Ag Day

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

ROWENA - Tuesday, April 5, 2022, was Ag Day in Runnels County, an event hosted by the Runnels County Texas A&M Extension Office. It's a day for local farmers and other agriculture producers to get together and share information or learn about new innovations and technology in the Agriculture industry.

Local farmers watch a presentation by Texas A&M Agrilife at Ag Day on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Agriculture is the single most important industry in much of the world, and particularly in the Agriplex, as this area as known. Cotton, wheat, goats, sheep, cattle, haygrazer, all form the nexus of agriculture in Runnels County, as well as the surrounding counties.

A report from the USDA in 2017 showed that there were 833 farms in Runnels County, totaling 672,304 acres. The market value of products sold in the county came to $53,434,000. Government payments totaled $6,275,000. According to the same report, the average net cash income for each farm was $15,079.00. Of those 833 farms, 97 had a Value of Sales over $100,000.00. This composed 12% of the overall Value of Sales. The largest percentage, 42%, covered the 352 farms that had less than $2,500 in Value of Sales. 

The total number of farms with over 1000 acres stood at 142 according to that 2017 report. The majority of farms in the report, 29%, were farms of 50-179 acres, followed by farms 180-499 acres (23%), respectively.

According to www.FarmEWG.org, farmers in Runnels County received $104,423,000.00 in subsidies from1995-2020.

Ag Day happens in Runnels County every other year. At one time, it was an annual event. Due to COVID-19, the event was cancelled in 2020, making 2018 the last time that the event took place, "We had it in 2018, my first year here. In 2020, we had it all planned and were going have it here at St. Joseph's parish hall (Rowena, TX). I was in Houston and COVID-19 hit. We had to cancel because Ag Day was supposed to happen about 3 weeks after that," said Texas A&M Runnels County Extension Agent Marty Vahlenkamp.

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Agent for Runnels County, Marty Vahlenkamp, speaks at Ag Day, held at the St. Jospeh's parish hall in Rowena, TX on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Vahlenkamp spoke about the foundation of the event, "Ag Day is a long-standing tradition here in Runnels County. It started way back before me, back with Marty Gibbs (retired Agrilife Extension Agent). Ag Day is a day that we get to celebrate our farmers and agriculture here in Runnels County, which is key to the economy, to the industry here. It's key to us every day in food and fiber. We get to celebrate those things on Ag Day."

Vahlenkamp was pleased with the turnout, "We have a great crowd here, we give away a couple of scholarships to graduating seniors."

The day was filled with commercial farming topics, as well as for homeowners on smaller parcels of land. The topics covered everything from legalities in farming consideration, as well as innovations in various aspects of the industry.

Vahlenkamp spoke about the keynote speaker for Ag Day, "We always try to get a keynote speaker who kind of possesses a global perspective of the Ag industry, maybe someone out of Washington or Austin. This year we have Dr. Darren Hudson, he's from the Lubbock area and he's an economist. He's going to talk to us a little bit about our global situation about our crops right now. What is goign on in Russia and the Ukraine has an impact on our wheat markets, our other markets, and our ag commodities because there is a lot of wheat grown over there.

Hudson is the Combest Endowed Chair of Agriculture Competitiveness , Cotton Marker Outlook: A Story of Volatility.

According to Vahlenkamp, this is the best time of the year to hold Ag Day, "This time of year is the lull before the storm for our Ag producers. The farmers are getting ready to plant milo, haygrazer, and with the coming summer they'll plant cotton, they'll be harvesting wheat. This time of year, is just a time for them to get together and visit. We have a lot of great sponsors and vendors, business reps, and more. They get to visit with those guys and talk shop. We also have some educational programs and that's where the Extension service comes in."

Local farmers, as well as local business sponsors shared a barbecue lunch and some quality time visiting each other. With farming work going into full gear, farmers run short on daylight and long on work, making these get-togethers all the more important and meaningful.