Greg Turner, Turner Farms, Preston, Caroline County, Md., shown in cab of combine holding map of acreage
MASTERUL MAKINGS: Greg Turner is proof beginning farmers can make it with hard and smart work.

Master Farmer Greg Turner: Sweating his way into farming

The fourth of our series on the success and strategies of the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Master Farmers.

At age 12, Greg Turner started learning the nitty-gritty of agriculture by working part time for a farmer — washing equipment, doing shop work and gradually moving up to equipment operation. That continued after high school graduation while working full-time for a local beer distributor.

His farming “seed” was sprouted. In 1988, Greg ventured out on his own with a one-acre orchard and a small field where he grew peaches, blackberries, cantaloupes, watermelons and pumpkins. With crop proceeds, he bought his first tractor, a 1952 Ford 8N.

The next year, Greg rented three tracts totaling 36 acres. In 1990, he purchased a John Deere 4020 and a 660 combine and began doing custom work for neighbors on weekends and after work — all while working full time for Kelly Distributors to pay bills and supplement farm income. Later that year, he bought his first truck, a 1964 Chevrolet, for $250 — plus parts from eight different trucks to make it go.

Full bore into farming
After 19 years with the beer distributorship, Greg turned his attention and labors totally to farming in 2005. He owned more than 125 acres, and was farming full-time with 1,200 acres during nights and weekends.

Today, he owns 310 acres and rents another 3,050 acres in three counties. With two full-time employees, seasonal part-time help and a secretary, Greg N. Turner Farms, LLC, produces corn, soybeans, wheat, Black Gold potatoes and cucumbers. Two 16-row variable-rate Kinzie and Deere planters equipped with row-splitters, two combines plus a well-used 8-ton GVM variable-rate dry spreader all operate based on 2-acre GPS grid mapping.

TOP-SIDE VIEW: Greg N. Turner Farms is equipped to harvest more than 3,350 acres in a timely matter.

Greg N. Turner Farms still does custom planting, harvesting and fertilizer applications for neighboring farmers on close to 600 acres. It also does grain hauling and excavation work.

Minimum tillage and conventional tillage operations rely on turbo-till style equipment plus an optional soil finishing attachment. His original tillage disk has been pushed back into the trees to gather rust. The farm’s self-propelled sprayer and spreader are set up to provide swath control.

Close to 200,000 bushels of grain storage are located on two farms. On one, an 18,000-bushel tank holds grain for his continuous flow grain dryer. That helps keep grain harvest going long after mills close and spreads out his market risks.

During the summer, Greg is busy running 52 center pivot irrigation systems on 2,300 acres — a necessity on the area’s sandy soils. Crop returns are insured with 50% coverage on irrigation and 80% on dry acres.

Close to 2,500 acres of cover crops are planted each year. Greg sees clear soil improvements with the practice. Wheat or a wheat-radish mix are either aerial-seeded into standing crops or minimum-tilled after harvest via the spreader.

The farm’s wheat, soybeans, no-till corn, wheat rotation works well. His 5-year per-acre farm yield averages are 193 bushels for corn; 55 bushels for soybeans and 62 bushels for wheat.

Turner gives back
Location: Preston, Caroline County, Md.

Family: Greg has two children: Jana who is attending college and William still in high school.

Leadership roles: Greg Turner is president of the Southern States local board and secretary of its regional election board. He’s also a Caroline County Soil Conservation District supervisor.

Greg also serves on the Provident State Bank advisory board, and is a trustee of Preston’s Bethesda United Methodist Church. Each year, Greg takes a piece of farm machinery to Preston Elementary School’s Career Day. He also donates 10 acres of proceeds to Preston Volunteer Fire Company’s ambulance fund.

Notable: Thanks to a farm employee and nearby emergency EMTs, Greg was resuscitated after being electrocuted while putting up a grain leg. He spent a week in the hospital. The following year, he helped with a community fundraiser that generated $40,000 for new AED defibrillators for Preston’s Volunteer Fire Company. Another fundraiser in 2018 brought in $15,000 for a new engine.

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