Antwain Downs

Bastrop, LA

Louisiana Land Bank Stockholders Antwain Downs Highlighted By FCC Services On The Farm Credit Network Website For “Producing Excellence” Program

Products: Corn, wheat and soybeans

Size of Operation: 550 acres

In Business Since: 1977

Farm Credit Partner: Louisiana Land Bank

Working with Farm Credit Since: 2015

Building on a legacy started by his great-grandfather just after the Civil War, 4th generation farmer Antwain Downs started farming full-time nine years ago after retiring from a career at a local paper mill, and has been expanding his farmland as opportunities arose to leave an even stronger legacy for the next generation.

“If he hadn’t bought the land in 1872, I wouldn’t have had land to start farming on,” says Antwain, who has farmed part-time since 1977 even while working off the farm. He’s also expanded the original acreage, the first generation of his family to do so, to its current 550 acres. “Even if the next generation doesn’t want to farm, they can rent it for the income, or if they do want to farm they’ll have something to start with.”

Building his operation hasn’t always been easy. Much of the acreage he’s purchased needed improvement before it could deliver the yields he wanted, and that takes hard work, commitment and patience. Today, most of his land is precision leveled and irrigated. To manage his operation, Antwain relies on one full-time and several seasonal employees, and his wife, Patricia, who helps with the books and also serves as a respected sounding board.

Over the years, Antwain has shifted his crop, from cotton originally to today’s rotation of corn, wheat and soybeans. “Around 2007 we started to change over to grain when cotton prices got low,” he says. “The transition wasn’t hard, but the biggest problem was where to store the grain and how to transport it.” Since then, he’s found a strong ally in the local cooperative which stores and markets his grain, and has built his own on-farm storage bins. He also purchased harvesting equipment, trucks and trailers in partnership with two neighboring farmers to manage the new crops.

Cooperating with other farmers is important to Antwain: he helped found and is the Treasurer the Morehouse Black Farmers and Landowners Association, Incorporated, and is also a member of the National Black Growers Council. “I learned from the school of hard knocks,” he says. “If I can make it easier for other farmers in my situation by sharing my experiences, then I want to help.” Antwain also credits the land grant extension agent from Southern University and Louisiana State University Ag Center for helping him develop the farm plan that has brought him to his current success.

Always looking to the future, Antwain recognized last year that interest rates were likely to go up and his current loan structure put him at financial risk. On the recommendation of his local commercial banker, he refinanced 240 acres of land with Louisiana Land Bank, locking in a 15-year interest rate.

“You get to know your banker, and I know he wants to see me do well,” Antwain says. “I didn’t move all my business to Farm Credit, but I’m looking forward to working with them. It’s good to work with both banks - one or the other can’t do it all.”

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