Family and farm
By any measure, Santee farmer Walter Dantzler is a blessed man. After graduating from Clemson’s advanced ROTC program in June 1967, he helped his father bring in the harvest before heading off to Vietnam. Then he served a 13-month tour of duty before returning to the family farm.
“I got home from Vietnam on a Saturday, went to church with my family on Sunday and was back farming by Monday,” Dantzler said.
Dantzler was named South Carolina winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. He visited with the other state winners at the Expo in October.
“It was good talking about the joys and challenges of farming with people who understand. To a person, they all talked about wanting their families involved in their operations,” Dantzler said.
Therein lies Dantzler’s other great blessing: His is a multigenerational family farm, with wife Maida Owen ’68, son Bryan — who attended Clemson, daughter-in-law Gina and 11-year-old grandson Dyson all putting shoulder to the wheel. And the Dantzlers aren’t just a farming family — they’re a Clemson farming family. Maida is retired after 39 years teaching science at Holly Hill Academy. Son David ’98, M ’07 works for the Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia. Youngest son Brook, a Citadel graduate, is an agency manager for Farm Bureau Insurance.
“All three of my sons grew up baling hay and working in the fields. I gave them the choice, and David and Brook chose to work away from the farm. That’s all right. I’m proud of all my children,” Dantzler said.
Dantzler farms approximately four thousand acres of corn, cotton, peanuts, soybeans and wheat, along with 512 acres of timber. He uses guidance systems for planting and irrigation, grid sampling to reduce fertilizer and chemical use, and strip tillage for better weed control and less erosion.
“The technology has changed some things, but farming is still a hot and sweaty job with long hours,” Dantzler said.
Dantzler is confident grandson Dyson will be the next generation to work the land. “Dyson shows a real love for being outside and working hard. When it’s his turn, we’ll have drones flying over these fields.”