By Aimee Robinette • Photography Ashley Putnam
Walt Rambo didn’t come from a farming family, but that hasn’t stopped him from accumulating – and successfully farming – 1,150 acres of land.
“I grew up around Clarksdale,” says Rambo. “My dad was a Methodist preacher. One church member, David Mullin, would take me to his farm when I was a child. I fell in love with it. Peter Hunter at Stovall Farms also let me work on his farm while I was in high school. I graduated from Lee Academy, and then Mississippi State University with an Ag science degree in 2007.”
From there, Rambo went to work for what was then Jimmy Sanders in Macon, which is located south of West Point.
“That’s where my wife, Ashley, is from. Her grandfather, Arti Ott, was a dairy farmer who still owned some land, and he helped me get fifty acres from a friend. I rented that land, a couple hundred acres, while still having a full-time job. In the fall of 2011, I managed some land in Inverness with Steven Good,” he says. “In January 2012, I moved back to the Delta. My wife was still in school at the ‘W,’ and she and our children didn’t come until 2013. I rented sixty acres from one of Steven Good’s friends, and I have picked up a little land here and there over an eight-year span.”
Rambo is also a rarity when it comes to the often pressurized situation farmers find themselves in due to factors beyond their control.
“I enjoy farming and I actually enjoy the stress,” he admits. “I find I perform better under pressure. I do my best work when things aren’t going great. I am a little worried though as things haven’t been stressful in a while. I really just enjoy working outside in a business that requires a lot of faith and hard work. It’s all I have ever wanted to do.”
Rambo named his operation A&W Planting Co., and he grows soybeans and rice for Uncle Ben’s. He says he has grown corn in the past, but now mainly rice and soybeans in Sunflower, Humphreys and Bolivar counties.
Even in his relatively short time farming, Rambo has seen many changes.
“When I got into it, GPS was relatively new,” he says. “I remember thinking well, I will never need it, but now I can’t live without it.”
Rambo credits his success in farming to doing most of the work himself with some contract labor. “I have one part-time employee and Barr Harvesting helps me with my harvest as does Captain Jack’s out of Rolling Fork,” he says. “It has allowed me to not need a large labor force. I like being on the tractor and the sprayer and casting my own shadow over the crop. I think that has been a big part of my success. I enjoy growing rice. Many of my neighbors hate it as it is not a round-up ready crop, but I love it right down to how it smells. It’s my baby.”
The Rambos have two children, Addison and Wyatt, who are still young, but are shown frequently how much joy can be taken in the land.
“It is very important to my wife and I that our children understand the family farm,” he says. “My son especially. And, I love to watch him enjoy it as much as I did at his age. He is still very young, but he recently helped me lay some poly pipe. I thought I had worn him out, but he told me that it was possibly the best day of his life. He wants to help, and though he is not quite old enough to help in a big way, I appreciate his interest and desire.”
Rambo says it is a family farm as his wife Ashley is “vital” to his success. “She works at Greenwood-Leflore Hospital,” he says. “She helps keep up with our children, though they have never been much of a hindrance. On top of working, she brings lunch or supper to the field. Some days just a can of Coke. When she is able, she will even ride two or three hours on the tractor or combine with me. At certain times of the year it is our only time to be together. She is as instrumental to this operation as I am.”
Rambo also gives credit to Keith Fulton at First South Farm Credit in Greenwood for much of his success. “He does my production loan,” he explains. “When my operation began to get bigger, Fulton remained super conservative and kept me from making mistakes. He always made it to where I could do what I wanted to do, but prevented me from making hasty decisions.”