By Jayci Cave
“Whenever I follow in my father’s footsteps I know I am on the right path.”
Many children look up to their father with admiration, but for Clint Abernathy his late father, Charles, was his mentor and best friend. He looked up to his dad in so many ways and put it very simply when he said he was the best.
“My dad would give you that confidence,” Clint said emotionally. “He was always uplifting and always had my back no matter what. If I was making a mistake, or whatever, he always knew what to say to make me feel better.”
Today, Clint is proud to carry on the family legacy of farming while working closely with family, and raising his three children and eight grandchildren to have the same values his father taught him. He is the fourth generation of his family to farm near Altus, Oklahoma. Clint’s great-grandfather first settled the family’s land. When his father returned from serving in World War II he began farming with the help of his father. Today, Clint continues to farm this land alongside his two sons, Justin and Jarod, and his son-in-law, Evan Coppock.
“I think the most rewarding part is just being able to come out here and do what my dad and granddad did, and just take on that responsibility,” Clint said. “My dad, of course, was my mentor. Now it is my turn to be a mentor and it is just a great family thing. I take it very seriously. I want my grandchildren to have the opportunity to farm if they want to, so I really enjoy doing that on a daily basis.”
The Abernathy family farming operation is truly a team effort. Each person plays a unique role in helping things be successful. Clint, Justin, Jarod and Evan all work very well together and split up the day-to-day duties of the farming operation to best fit their personal talents and strengths. Clint said his wife Kim, daughter Jordan, and daughters-in-law Amy and Jill are all willing to help whenever needed.
For Clint, there is nothing better than getting to do what he loves and be with his family every day. He said while there are challenges in farming, they just enjoy being together as a family.
“Well the most challenging part of farming is dealing with the uncertainties, and we always have to do that. The weather has always been unpredictable,” Clint said. “My dad would have told you that exact same thing. We never have two years alike. In fact, the only certain thing we know is that next year will be completely different than any other year we have had. The markets are the same way. The markets are so volatile, and I think it is more so now than they used to be.”
Through all the highs and lows of farming, Clint said he learned many valuable lessons from his father, including to not put the farm before family.
“From dad I learned a lot about work ethic,” Clint said reminiscing. “You know if you work hard, you will gain from it. He just taught me about being honest in your dealings and taking care of your family. That was always number one with him.”
Clint is the newest member of PCCA’s Board of Directors serving District 1. For him, having the opportunity to serve on PCCA’s board holds an extra special meaning.
“I wanted to serve on PCCA’s board just to give back to what PCCA has done for me over my whole career,” Clint said. “I’ve always been a member of PCCA. They have done a good job and I can trust them. Now I get the chance to help with that, and it is just really an honor and privilege for me to do that. The other thing is my dad had this position. Twenty-four years ago, he was elected to this same District 1 position. Whenever I follow in his footsteps I know I am on the right path. I am just thrilled to be able to do that.”
In his role, Clint said he hopes to help PCCA continue to be a strong company and serve its grower-owners.
“Well I want to make PCCA, I know it is a great co-op, but I want to make it even better. I think we need to connect with our younger farmers,” Clint said. “I know that is being done, but we need to expand on that. We have to have our younger people involved in our co-op or it won’t be sustainable. So that’s one thing I would like to see. I know it is being run well, and I would like to add just a little bit to that and keep it going strong. We need these co-ops. They are very valuable to our farming operation.”
Along with serving on PCCA’s Board of Directors, Clint is very active both in his community and the cotton industry. He is a member of the First United Methodist Church in Altus. He serves on the board of Cotton Growers Cooperative and Producers Cooperative Oil Mill, and currently serves as an alternate to The Cotton Board. He serves on the board of the Western Trails Historical Society and is currently serving on the board of the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Clint said it is important for farmers to be involved because it is up to themselves to be their own voice.
“We have to be involved and get our word out,” Clint said. “Nobody else is going to do that for us. That is why we need to really stay strong on that. It is easy not to do that. It is easy just to stay out here and do what we are trained to do, and what we love to do is just take care of these farms. We have to expand on that and let others know what we are doing and how we are doing it in a safe and sustainable way.”
The Abernathy family, like many in the cotton industry, take great pride in caring for the land. Clint said he hopes everyone knows how much they do to help ensure future generations will be able to follow in their footsteps and farm.
“I think everybody needs to know that we are out here to protect this environment because our families and our employees are out here every day,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is destroy it in any way. We feel like we are doing what we need to do to make it sustainable. To me sustainability is to leave my grandkids the same opportunities I had out here. So, any way we can use technology and conservation practices to make that happen, then that is what we need to do.”
Clint said they implement multiple conservation practices in their operation. All of their farmland is either no-till or minimum-till, and they continue to expand their use of drip irrigation each year to conserve water. He said they also use variable rate fertilizer, which involves taking soil samples and grids, then combining that with variable rates on the fields to benefit the soil.
“I want people not in ag to know that we are good stewards of this land and we are working hard to be better at it all the time,” Clint said. “We are using modern technology. We are utilizing conservation practices that will save the land and save this water for generations to come.”
There are many decisions to be made when managing a farming operation. Clint would encourage young farmers to find a mentor to learn from and to be their guide.
“I think what young farmers should always realize is all years are not going to be good,” Clint said. “You have good years and bad years, but you learn from the bad years and you try to make the most out of your good years. Always try to find some mentors out there that you respect, and watch them and see how they do things. You might not necessarily need to do things exactly like they do it, but that is certainly what I did in my career.”
Without a doubt, Clint said one of his teachers was his father. Even today the wisdom and experience Charles passed down impacts the decisions Clint makes on a daily basis.
“Of course, I had my dad and I had others in the area that I really watched closely, and there’s no need making mistakes that you don’t need to, so always put a big value in that even after they are gone. My dad passed away seven years ago, and I still think of him and when I make decisions I can hear his input. It is a really special thing, so don’t ever think you are too smart to learn more. It’s okay to look back and see how things used to be done. We can’t do everything the same as we used to, but it is very valuable to have those relationships.”
From farming to being trustworthy in all things and raising his family with the same values he was taught, Clint Abernathy is proud to follow in his father’s footsteps.