What is in this article?:
- Despite humble beginnings and what most people would call a handicap, Mike Harris has built a thriving farming enterprise. He farms several thousand acres, owns part interest in a highly successful cotton gin, and has other successful businesses. But, it didn’t come easy.
- Last year Harris farmed over 9,000 acres of land, including 3,500 acres of cotton. He’s planning to increase to 4,500 acres of cotton next year. Plus, he still has involvement in cotton gins and other business operations.
As a young man, Roper, N.C., grower Mike Harris lost both his legs in an automobile accident. The state told him he could claim disability for life. He didn’t just say no to a life on welfare, he said, "Hell, no," and he’s spent a lifetime making the pledge work.
Harris got into farming in a round about way. He went with some friends to get a farm loan from their local FSA office. When he saw how easily they got loans, he applied, was accepted, but that’s where the fairy tale story ends.
Using his good name and his reputation as being a hard worker, Harris lined up the equipment he needed to get into farming. When he went back to pick up his check from the FSA, he was told there was no money.
Even with both legs at that time, for a 19 year old country boy finding money to pay for equipment and land was a daunting task. The manager of the Ford dealership let him keep a truck he had ordered and even paid for the license plates and arranged for a loan at the local bank.
Next stop was in Elizabeth City, N.C., to tell the tractor dealership he had no money to pay for a tractor he had bought. “Mr. Abbott, who owned the tractor dealership said, “You’re the hardest working youngun’ I know, you’ll pay me for the tractor.”
That was back in 1973. He planted wheat and soybeans and had a great crop and in a matter of a few years made enough money to pay for all his equipment.
In retrospect, Harris says, not getting the farm loan was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. “I learned the hard way that you never take anything for granted in the farming business,” he says.
After spending most of the money he earned that first year to pay hospital expenses, Harris learned the value of insurance. “My aunt told me to go get Blue Cross, Blue Shield insurance and to bring her the policy, so she could make sure I had everything covered,” Harris recalls.
Eight days after his insurance went into effect, he had an automobile accident. By all accounts only the toughest of the tough could have survived the wreck. Though he survived, Harris lost both legs in the accident.
His doctors and rehab therapists told him it would take him two years to learn to walk and to adjust to his artificial legs. The accident happened on March 6, 1975. He was in the hospital for 30 days, rehab for two weeks, walked out of the hospital and harvested his wheat crop a few weeks later.