higher prices. He also gets
higher prices by storing
400,000 bushels, about 60
percent of the grain he produces. Holding wheat in the
bins for two to three weeks
can result in price improvement of 30 cents per bushel,
he says. He uses forward
contracts on about half of his
anticipated production and
sells less than 5 percent of his
crops for cash at harvest.
Verell harvests corn at 25
percent moisture and compares it to harvesting at 15
percent moisture to see if
there are yield differences. He
plans to conduct a similar test
with soybeans. He generally favors harvesting
grain at high moisture. He has noticed that
high-yield soybean growers use herbicides
to desiccate or dry plants prior to harvesting,
and plans on testing this as well.
His long-term relationships with landowners have paid off. He works with landlords to
improve their land while he farms it, and these
relationships have led to irrigation investments
on the land he rents. He also uses soil moisture
sensors to help schedule irrigation.
Verell has been a state winner in National
Corn Growers Association yield contests,
and works with Pioneer agronomists to host
August field days to show off the company’s
corn hybrids and showcase agronomic practices. He sets aside 50 acres to test new varieties and production practices.
This year’s field day will compare corn that
received 230 pounds of nitrogen per acre at
planting with corn that received 40 pounds
of nitrogen at planting followed by spoon-fed
nitrogen during the growing season. One test
last year used Y-drops for applying late season
nitrogen to corn from high clearance sprayers. While Y-drops have worked well in the
Midwest, Verell says they didn’t pay off last
year on his corn.
Soil conservation is important, and he
uses no-till planting on almost all of his crops.
“We’ve also planted buffer strips, wildlife food
plots, pollinator plants, and cover crops,” he
says. “We have something growing on most
of our land throughout the year.” Cover crops
include a blend of wheat, rye, and clover. By
increasing cover crops, he hopes to further
reduce fertilizer costs.
He has also saved money on fertilization
by buying and using a bulk spreader truck,
which has allowed him to cut the cost of
lime application by $11 to $15 per ton. He
recently bought seed treatment equipment
and anticipates savings of 25 percent over
what a retail dealer charges.
Verell is active in a number of organiza-
tions, including the board of Madison County
Farm Bureau. He has been a member of
Madison County Young Farmers and Ranch-
ers, and was selected an American Soybean
Association/DuPont Young Leader. For the
Leadership Jackson group, he talks to young
professional workers about the importance
of agriculture in the community. He serves
as treasurer of the Tennessee Soybean Pro-
motion Board and secretary of the Tennes-
see Soybean Association. He was a regional
winner of the American Soybean Association’s
Conservation Legacy Award.
He is especially pleased that his father,
Allen Verell, and grandfather, John Verell, Sr.,
remain active on the farm. His grandfather,
who started the farm in the 1960s, is turning
94 years old this year. His father and grandfa-
ther have established trusts and have estate
plans in place to make sure that the farming
business will continue into future generations.
As the farm operates today, John basically
runs the business side of the operation. He
buys seed and is responsible for selling com-
modities. Allen is essentially responsible for
all of the equipment, and typically works in
the shop, while John often
works in the farm office. One
of the farm’s key employees
is Matt Chapman, a recent
hire with experience as an
electrician, plumber, and
carpenter, with a knack for
fixing broken equipment.
“We have room to expand,”
says John. “If we buy land, we
will do it without incurring
tremendous debt. We can
also expand without having
to buy new equipment.”
His wife, Crissy, works
as an occupational thera-
pist with special needs
children at West Tennessee
Healthcare. John and Crissy
support fundraisers for special needs chil-
dren, including one that helps pay for their
medical devices. They’ve supported St. Jude
Children’s Research Hospital, enjoy teaching
students about farming through Ag in the
Classroom presentations, are active in North
Jackson Church of Christ.
John and Crissy have a five-year-old daugh-
ter, Emmi. Her pets — a donkey, rabbit, cow
and goats — are the farm’s only livestock.
Michael Buschermohle, interim assistant
dean with University of Tennessee Extension,
is state coordinator of the Farmer of the Year
award. Verell was nominated for the honor by
Danny Morris, University of Tennessee Exten-
sion area farm management specialist. Morris
encouraged Verell to apply for the award.
“John is a hard-working, innovative farmer,”
Morris says. “He’s taking this farm to the next
level. He looks at the bottom line, and knows
as much about agronomy as any consultant.
He is from a fantastic family, and he is a great
pick for Farmer of the Year.”
John Verell and nominator Danny Morris
John Verell has 400,000 bushels of storage
capacity in his on-farm grain bins.