Agriculture still strong in Pearl River County

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2018

Agriculture has played a major role in Pearl River County in the past, and continues to have an impact to this day.

While large tracts of land once reserved for the production of timber, Tung nuts and beef have been transformed into major subdivisions over the years, this area of the country is still home to long-time farmers.

Peter A. Tims Jr. is one of those farmers.

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As a boy he cared for his father’s livestock. But his father was not a farmer. Instead he founded the precursor to The Poplarville Democrat, the Weekly Democrat. Since Tims was the only son in the family, he inherited the task of caring for the livestock.

Today, at 89, he describes himself as an outdoors enthusiast. In his youth, he served in the Navy during the Korean War, after that he worked for ATT in New Orleans and later went on to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in biology. During his 89 years, he’s seen the construction of Interstate 59 prompt the relocation of his home in the early 60s, and lost a Tung tree farming business to Hurricane Camille in 1969.

Through it all, he’s had some sort of involvement in the farming community within Pearl River County for more than 51 years.

For ten years he farmed Tung trees and sold the crops to the nearby Crosby Chemicals facility in Picayune. That is until Camille tore through the county and damaged his trees.

The devastation caused a setback in his farming career, sending him to the retail side selling fam equipment and supplies. But the damage caused by the storm led to large plats of the land being cleared that would later be used for cattle.

His return to farming continues to this day. A month away from his 90th birthday, he says he still spends a few hours a day tending to his herd. But getting the business started involved a lot more time. When he started raising cows, he said he typically spent 10 or more hours a day building fences and caring for his animals.

His farm started with just 40 acres bought in a tax sale his father saw in his own newspaper decades ago. Years later, a deal was struck with the Crosby family that involved the promise of selling Tung nuts to the company, which expanded the property to 320 acres. Today, he owns 1,150 acres that are home to a couple dozen cows and swaths of pine trees.

Farming comes with drawbacks. In addition to losing his Tung tree farms due to a hurricane about 40 years ago, last month he lost more than 30 cattle to a bolt of lighting generated by a summer storm. Tims said the storm rolled through on the first of June. Under the tree, huddled for shelter from the storm, were 20 cows and 14 calves. The bolt of lighting struck the tree and killed every animal under it.

In his time farming within Pearl River County, Tims said he’s seen a number of improvements.

Outside of the advancements in mechanical engineering that brought more horsepower to tractors, which he doesn’t use much for cattle, Tims said the advent of vaccines for cattle have increased the vitality of his herd.

Before the use of vaccines, Tims said farmers expected to lose 3 percent of their stock to illness. Today, if a farmer loses 1 percent, he knows he needs to take action immediately.

Even through the hardships, Tims said he enjoys farming because it gets him outdoors and he can be his own boss.

“What you get is what you make,” Tims said. “You get caught up in it and it becomes part of your life.”