BY LORIE WOODWARD CANTU
By the time Eddie Davis was 26 years old, he was farm manager of the Louisiana Delta Plantation, a 34,000-acre diversified farming operation near Jonesville, Louisiana in Catahoula Parish. Landing a job of that magnitude made earning a farm manager accreditation from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) seem unnecessary.
“Frankly, I had a good job on a good place,” Davis, who is now a farm manager and real estate agent with Brown Land and Farm Management LLC in Rayville, Lousiana, said. “While I knew about the ASFMRA, I also knew the credentials weren’t going to prompt the Plantation’s managing partner to hire me twice for the same job. At the time, I didn’t see a benefit.”
Plus, he was busy with on-the-job training. Davis had left his family’s row crop farm and cow-calf operation, also located in Catahoula Parish, to attend Louisiana State University (LSU) where he earned an agribusiness degree in 1999. He returned to the parish to manage a 160-acre AgCenter demonstration farm, which happened to be located on Delta Plantation land.
“I was a hands-on farmer working with other farmers in the region,” Davis said. His activities and work ethic caught the attention of the Plantation’s senior management. He was offered a job as assistant farm manager in anticipation of the farm manager’s eventual retirement.
“I turned the job down because I had just gotten the position with LSU AgCenter,” Davis said. “I felt I needed to honor my commitment.”
After two years with Ag Center, Davis returned to his family farm where he grew corn, cotton, soybeans and grain sorghum. He farmed two years.
Then, he got another call from Louisiana Delta Plantation management. He began working as an assistant farm manager on April 1, 2003. In December 2003, the farm manager retired and became a consultant. Davis was promoted to farm manager.
“I transitioned from day-to-day production agriculture to day-to-day agribusiness,” Davis, who still enjoys getting his hands dirty with farm work, said.
On Louisiana Delta Plantation, he managed up to 34 tenants, who produced cotton, grain sorghum, corn, soybeans and rice, and was involved in enrolling one of the largest contiguous Wetlands Reserve Program tracts in the nation. Davis was responsible for all leases and rent collection, government program compliance, liability, crop insurance, capital improvement and the farm’s day-to-day business operations. He also managed a duck hunting operation leasing as many as 60 duck blinds per season.
“A lifetime in agriculture had taught me a lot, but I recognized I still had a lot to learn,” Davis said.
Often, when he and potential tenants would tour land, the tenants would ask his opinion about the productivity or the potential for producing various crops. While Davis would share his thoughts, he always left the door open for learning.
“I’d often tell more experienced farmers, ‘You’ve been farming longer than I’ve been alive, I need your experience more than you need my opinion. What do you think?’” Davis said. “I learned—and still learn—a lot by listening to people.”
In 2012 after nine successful years, Davis left the Delta Plantation of his own volition to pursue other opportunities. He joined forces with Jerry Brown, owner of Brown Realty in Rayville, to launch Brown Land and Farm Management LLC.
The move was not only a professional one, but a physical relocation of about 60 miles as the crow flies or 90 miles following the road. After spending the majority of his life in Catahoula Parish where both sides of his family had lived for three generations, Davis found himself in unfamiliar territory when it came to relationships.
“When I moved, I took all my farm management skills with me, so I was equipped professionally,” Davis said. “But as a newcomer in the area, I didn’t have the established relationships and the knowledge of the local farmers that I had before—and they didn’t know me either. For the first time in my career, I had to sell myself, my experience and our company.”
It was during this process of establishing his personal reputation in a new area that the benefits of ASFRMA accreditation crystallized for Davis.
“First, the ASFRMA farm manager accreditation gives potential clients a sense of confidence in my abilities because they know I’ve met the organization’s high standards,” he said. “Certification doesn’t make me a better farm manager per se, but it testifies to my competence and is evidence of the experience of everything that went before. It’s a stamp of credibility.”
The second benefit to ASFRMA accreditation is a national network of expertise that benefits his clients as much as it does him.
“As part of ASFRMA, I can pick up the phone and get the perspective of experts from across the country,” Davis said. “For instance, I can call one of my contacts in the Midwest to see how they handle share leases or flex leases. Or when creating a marketing plan, I can touch base with the Nebraska farm manager I met through ASFRMA who is also a commodities trading expert.”
The extensive network also helps his clients who are looking to invest in land in other parts of the country.
“People like to do business with people they know and trust,” Davis said. “I can point my clients to individuals with confidence that they will take care of them or refer them to other top-notch professionals who will. They can do the same for their clients with me.”
Davis, like so many ASFRMA professionals, was drawn to the profession because of his love of the land.
“Agriculture is in my blood,” Davis said. “I love seeing land produce whether it’s farmland, timberland or hunting land. With that said, this profession is not just about getting more production from good dirt, it’s about the people attached to the dirt—their lives and livelihoods. Farm management is a long-term relationship business.”
Personally, he is putting down roots. It’s been over three years since he relocated and opened a new chapter in his career. Today, he is managing or consulting on 18,000 acres on properties stretching from central Louisiana to central Arkansas—and the business is growing.
“I like roots, good reputations, and lasting relationships built on trust,” Davis, who is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister, said. “My business practices reflect my beliefs. People should see no difference in me whether I’m in the pulpit or in my pickup.”
For Davis, character and competence count.
“From my perspective, the two most important attributes of a farm manager are character and competence,” Davis said. “The ASFMRA accreditation speaks to both because its extensive education requirements include ethics. Landowners can be confident that an ASFMRA-certified farm manager is trained to do a good job on both fronts.”
Eddie Davis, Farm Manager/Agent
Brown Land and Farm Management LLC
Gerald L. Brown (Jerry), Broker
2189 Hwy 425 | PO Box 83 | Rayville, LA 71269
(318) 728-8990 office | (318) 481-3995 cell