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Turn row talk and coffee conversations

Randall Bankhead swfp-shelley-huguley-bankhead-mary.jpg
Catching up with Mary Bankhead, Roscoe, Texas, following an interview with her husband Randall about the 2021 cotton crop and harvest. Mary and I met on a Women in Ag cotton tour in 2018.
Thankful for another great year of interviews gathered around kitchen tables, standing in fields and riding in the cabs of harvesters.

December. It’s called the most wonderful time of the year. This month isn’t only a celebration of what began in a manger in Bethlehem and finished on the cross and in an empty tomb but it also marks the end of another calendar year, another season and thoughts about what’s next.

Last year, I published a photo gallery of the Southwest Farm Press front covers beginning with the January issue and ending with the last December issue. They will be published Monday, Dec. 27, so check back! Seeing the year laid out cover by cover gives me perspective. The cover photos quickly recall the people and their stories, whether they were told sitting around a kitchen table or at farm sale or on the tailgate of a pickup or riding in a stripper cab.

The covers also remind me of the content within. Just because a story doesn’t make the front page doesn’t mean it’s not important or doesn’t have value. Only one photo can garnish the front page. And what would a cover be without the pages that lie within? It’s all important, all newsworthy.

swfp-shelley-huguley-21-tracy-austin-heinrich-21-closeup2.jpgFather and son, Tracy and Austin Heinrich, bringing in the harvest near Slaton, Texas. Articles about their best-ever crop and Austin's passion about returning to the farm is featured in the December 2 issue, "Bringing in the harvest." (Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)

Scanning the front pages, I’m reminded of highs and some lows in 2021. As I visited with producers, one that stood out this year, was the gratefulness and excitement about high commodity prices coupled with a reprieve from drought. It was so refreshing to hear and live some good news. (We farm as well.) When you live the hard times and cover the same difficulties it sometimes hits a little too close to home. My heart aches for our own farm but also for those I interview. So, to hear optimism and hope was good for my soul. While there was still plenty of “hard,” this year, it was typically countered with, “at least the prices are good, and we’ve gotten some rain.” Good news and hope. We’ve seen a little more of that this year.


Texas Rolling Plains producers Kevin Corzine and Alan Sandbothe discuss the 2021 season in the article, "Rolling Plains cotton: 'One rain away.'"

2021 was marked by retirements of some of the industry’s best: Entomologist Ron Smith, Plains Cotton Growers CEO Steve Verett and our 2020 High Cotton winner Dan Smith. Seeing the cover photo of cattle huddled in bitterly cold temperatures from February’s fury, though fraught with struggles, recalls the tenacity, care and perseverance of our industry and their families.

And then there are the High Cotton and Peanut Efficiency issues. We honored a producer who’s been growing cotton for over 60 years. SWFP-040121.jpgWe also had the honor of remembering the life and legacy of Tony Dill through the eyes of his wife, grown children, and those closest to him.

SWFP 070121.jpg


My overall favorite is farm families — the heartbeat of this industry. What is farming without the family? What a joy and privilege it is to get to write and photograph it all. Thank you for sharing 2021 with me! I look forward to 2022! Let’s have coffee some time. I want to tell your story!

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