Jones Thomas supplies goods to his local community and beyond by managing and farming approximately 680 acres of peanuts, corn and cotton in Thomas and Brooks counties. The fourth-generation farmer bought out his father’s farm in 1991 and took over. Thomas recalls the challenges he faced during his early years of farming.
“In 1989 we were about to lose the farm and when we got it back, we started off in debt,” he said.
Thomas said those days were difficult. Today his enterprise employs six people and provides goods to five local businesses, including a dairy, a cotton gin and a peanut company. Thomas has come a long way.
“Things didn’t happen overnight,” said Gloria Thomas, wife of Jones Thomas for 44 years. “Prayer changes things. I stay prayed up, and that’s what got us by. We are glad that we knew who our Savior was early on. It’s been some rainy days. We’ve had some dry spells; yet when we look to the Master, we give God all the glory.”
Along with their faith, Jones Thomas reached out to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for assistance. He has received several loans and services over 30 years. Some of the loans and programs include the Farm Operating Loan, Farm Ownership Loan, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and Price Loss Coverage.
“FSA helped me operate my farm, helped me buy equipment and helped me build a shelter and a shop,” Thomas said. In addition, to buying equipment Thomas also credits FSA for providing coverage in the event of a loss.
“Say you have a drought and you have loss, depending on your coverage they can give you some help,” Thomas said.
The retired Army National Guard veteran said small Black farmers have not always received the breaks that big farmers receive. He also notes how the price of fertilizer, chemicals and diesel are expensive. The expenses pose a challenge because farmers must choose profitable crops with large yields to make a profit. In spite of those challenges, Thomas encourages farmers to persist.
“Don’t give up, keep trying,” Thomas said. He also encourages farmers to keep accurate records and to have a strong plan when they submit their application that shows cash flow.
“If you stick and stay, it’s bound to pay,” Jones Thomas said.
Gloria Thomas, Jones Thomas’ wife, said her role is managing the finances, paying the workers and the bills from the farm. She said she leads from the sideline. “If he can get on that tractor or sprayer and do what he needs to do, I can take care of the rest,” Gloria Thomas said.
Jones Thomas credits his wife as a key component to his success. Without the daily financial responsibilities, he can focus on the day-to-day farming operation.
“I don’t have to worry about the payroll,” he said. “She does it.” Overall, the couple believes they have a successful farm. Together they have raised four daughters and are proud of their land and what it means to their family.
“It’s not just my land; its family land,” Jones Thomas said. “It’s my daddy’s, sisters’ and brothers’ and their children’s as well. I farm it all .I’m proud of it. Proud of my father, and I’m trying to keep it.”