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Producing Excellence

John Prukop

Jim Wells County, TX

Prukop Farms

Products Raised or Grown: Cotton, watermelon and other produce

Size of Operation: 15,000 acres

In Business Since: 1973

Farm Credit Partner: Texas Farm Credit Services

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1985

Rainfall is an ongoing concern for farmers and ranchers across the country, but what presents a challenge for some crops is a blessing for others. Take non-irrigated watermelons, for example, which thrive in arid climates and below-average rainfall. Texas farmer John Prukop had a bumper crop last year, harvesting 27,000 pounds of watermelon per acre despite a widespread drought and triple-digit temperatures.

John and his brother James own and operate Prukop Farms, a highly diversified farming operation that claims cotton as its biggest cash crop, but also includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, including watermelons as their second largest crop. Being this diversified positions them to withstand weather variations, as witnessed last year. “We’ve grown onions, tomatoes, cantaloupe, honeydew and some others over the years, but watermelons have just returned us the money,” says John, who was elected chairman of the Texas AgFinance Board of Directors last year, after being first elected to the board in 1990. “Plus, they are harvested at a time that lets us use our employees before we harvest grain and cotton. It’s a good rotation.”

Despite having a full rotation of crops, Prukop Farms is continuously looking for new crops to try. John says that while a crop’s profitability is important, there are several other factors to consider when deciding on new crops. “First of all, I think about if I can plant, grow and harvest it with the same equipment and same employees I already have,” he says. “Secondly, I have to consider the shelf life of the product. When you’re a farm trying to unload fresh produce, you have to have a home for it.” That home includes regional retailers and grocery stores, who purchase John’s crop through a merchandiser.

In addition to experimenting with new crops, John is always looking for new innovations and technology to make the operation more efficient. For example, when he noticed that their irrigation water was becoming more salty, he researched a water conditioning system from Australia that makes water more available to the plants.

Texas AgFinance CEO Jimmy Wright was John’s first loan officer and notes that he has seen the association reap the benefits of John’s development. “I’ve watched John grow his operation over the years, diversifying it as opportunities arose, always making good, progressive management decisions,” Wright says. “His mindset is just as progressive in the boardroom as it is in his farming and ranching operation.”

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