SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Watch Daniel Johnson and his crew on the first day of tobacco planting and you will know why he calls it the craziest day of the year.
Workers hurriedly drop plants into the rig to go into the ground, as the tractor races along - at 1 mile per hour. Johnson has no idea how the crop will turn out.
“A lot of times we put crops in the ground but don’t know if we’re going to come out with them or not. It’s kind of like going to Las Vegas and rolling the dice,” Johnson said.
From here, Johnson, his sons and his workers feel like they are in a race with the clock.
“The quicker you get it planted, the quicker you get the crop made, get it out of the field before storms come in the fall,” he said.
Johnson says the equipment today makes a big difference. Back in the day, they got about five acres planted per day by hand. Now they get more than 30, but every hour of that day becomes crucial.
This marks his 38th year planting. He says computers, GPS systems and more make agriculture as precise as ever.
“I call it ‘high tech’, some of the chemicals we use, we’re using down to an ounce,” Johnson said.
He says he is glad to see some commodity prices rise this year, it’s more troubling to see the costs - fuel, fertilizer and others - rise even higher.
“I told somebody the other day, this is no joke, that we’ll make less money in 2021 with higher prices than we did in 2020,” Johnson said.
They plant more than 4,000 acres of tobacco, peanuts, corn, and cotton. While he is always worked to stay in business, he now hopes to leave a solid operation for his sons to lead one day.
“I’ve never wanted to do anything different since I was nine years old. Younger than that. At nine years old, I had a tobacco crop and was harvesting by hand. And I have been in it ever since,” he said.