For Waterford native Mike Jackson, working on the farm is as natural as dirt under fingernails. The past 39 years, Jackson has done about every job imaginable at Witten Farms in Lowell and doesn't see himself giving it up anytime soon.
Question: When and why did you begin working here at Witten's?
Answer: I started here in January 1975. I wasn't working anywhere else at the time and a friend of mine told me they needed somebody out here, so I called and Jerry told me to come down here and talk to him, then told me next day to come back to work. I guess I was probably about 25 years old then.
ERIN E. O’NEILL The Marietta Times
Mike Jackson sits in his favorite spot inside a John Deere tractor during a busy day at Witten Farms on April 2.
Q: Did you have experience doing this type of work?
A: Yeah, I lived on a farm all my life. My mom and dad had a small farm out back of Waterford. I have done this type of thing my whole life.
Q: Do you specialize in anything, or just kind of do whatever needs done?
Address: Resides in Waterford.
Family: Married to Pam for 43 years; three children and three grandchildren.
Occupation: Foreman, Witten Farms.
A: Whatever needs to be done. I work on just about anything and operate every piece of equipment.
Q: So what is a typical day like? Do you work every day?
A: It depends on the season. In the summer we'll work seven days a week. We have cattle we feed every morning so we're in here by 7:30 in the morning ... it takes a couple hours to feed them and there are right around 200. This time of year we go out to the fields after that. Right now we are plowing a lot and we're getting ready to start planting in the next few weeks. In the winter time, we work on equipment and get it ready to go. I work on motors or just about anything to fix up the equipment and in the summer, starting about midnight I'll go down to Ravenswood when they start picking corn and haul it back. This time of year we'll work eight hours but in the summer we'll work until dark. My main job is I work for Jerry, whatever he needs. But pretty much if anybody needs to know anything, they come and ask me.
Q: Being here this long, does it become kind of like a family?
A: Yeah, yeah. Like any other family, you have your arguments sometimes but I get along well with all of them. I've seen the kids all grow up ... I started working here before Tom and Scott were even born, Julie was a couple years old, Amy was in first grade. When they were younger, they would drive with me places. We used to have a basketball hoop out here and we used to play. Tom even invited me to be in his wedding.
Q: What are some of the challenges of the job?
A: I don't know if there are any really. I get up at 4:30 out of habit, so the hours don't bother me. I don't know of anything (with this job) that's any harder than any other job anymore. We used to do a lot of irrigating and that was a challenge getting that all laid out and hooked up. But we changed that. Now even on rainy days, we just try to get equipment ready, take care of the cattle. There is always something that needs to be done.
Q: What's the best part of the job?
A: For me, it's just being out in the tractor by yourself, in the field and no one to bother you. I also enjoy nature. I do a lot of deer hunting and rabbit hunting when I can. I raise my own potatoes at home, too, so I just like doing this kind of stuff. I could never see myself doing any other kind of job. I like to get out and get dirty, it's just the way I grew up. When I was little, we used to take our shoes off the last day of school and didn't put them back on until we went back to school. We ran around like that all summer.
Q: Why do you think Witten's has lasted as long as it has?
A: The quality and the variety of stuff they grow ... when I first started working here, nobody else grew a lot of sweetcorn and on Sundays people would come out here, you'd think there was a fair going on. Now they take it to the people.
Erin O'Neill conducted this interview.