August 11, 2005
Omega- Employers often get discouraged when it comes to finding responsible people to hire, especially self-motivated people. Model employees exist, like a man loves his job to the point of learning as much as he can, on his on time, to help customers and the environment.
High dollar decisions don't always happen in an air conditioned office as Ronnie Williams and Miles Roundtree know all too well. "This, to kill worms, is approximately $250 to $300 a gallon," says Miles Roundtree, as he holds up a white plastic jug.
He has about $1,200 worth of pesticides in the back of his truck that he wants to spray, and thousands of dollars stored in a near-by barn. They have a risky financial decision to make.
Do they have enough time to spray a cotton field, and have enough time for the chemical to get absorbed by the plants before a rain?
Roundtree and Williams frequently look at the sky for approaching clouds for a hint of an approaching rain shower. Just to be sure, they want a second weather opinion from one person, in particular, that could make then feel better about whether or not to spray.
"He's 90% accurate most of the time," says Ronnie Williams standing by his green sprayer and a thousand gallon mobile water tank used to mix farm chemicals.
Enter Scott Pettyjohn. "Let me look and see," says Pettyjohn when asked if he sees rain headed for a particular area.
Pettyjohn is a self-taught community weather observer who has helped people for the past 15 years for free, one phone call at a time. He gets lots of calls, especially this time of year when the weather changes quickly. "I get about 25-30 calls a day during the busy season. It could be more than that," says Pettyjohn, who works at Omega Farm Supply, in the farming community of Omega, about 10 miles southwest of Tifton.
"I learned it on my own. The information was right in front of me all the time," says Pettyjohn, who has two computer screens that display weather and other current information.
Some farmers call him three or more times a day when a tropical storm or hurricane might hit the area, wanting to know what Pettyjohn thinks will happen. His extensive knowledge of individual fields in a five-country area, his deep-seeded desire to help people, along with his excellent knowledge of weather radar make him a popular, local weatherman.
"We got this build up in the last little bit," points out Pettyjohn on a current radar picture. A rain shower developed three counties away. He studies the radar information closely to see if it moves, and, if so, in which direction.
That shower could wash the expensive pesticides off the plants and directly into the environment, causing a significant monetary loss. Since pesticides costs so much, Pettyjohn's information could determine if a farmer makes a profit or loss.
"You'll have time," says Pettyjohn, in soothing words Miles Roundtree and Ronnie Williams feel confident in their decision to go ahead and spray, capping off uncertainty by getting advice from much more than a fair weather friend.
On occasion Scott gets calls from people wanting to go fishing, and he gladly tells them if it looks like rain at their favorite fishing spot.