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February 12, 2024
For 30 years, Farm Press has been celebrating U.S. cotton producers for the regenerative production of high-yielding, quality cotton. While sustainable practices, equipment and cotton varieties continue to evolve, the heartbeat of the High Cotton award remains, recognizing the best of this nation’s producers.
Four growers from four Cotton Belt regions were nominated and selected as the 2024 High Cotton honorees: Southeast — Andy Wendland, Autaugaville, Ala.; Midsouth — Edward Greer, Rayville, La.; Southwest — Richard Gaona, Roby, Texas; and West — Jerry Rovey, Buckeye, Ariz.
Farm Press, in cooperation with The Cotton Foundation, will recognize the 2024 winners March 1 at the High Cotton Breakfast, held in conjunction with the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, Memphis, Tenn.
Learn more about this 30th Class of High Cotton winners.
With dedication to stewardship, quality production and leadership, along with a generational approach to making it all work, Andy Wendland, Autaugaville, Ala., is the 2024 Farm Press/The Cotton Foundation High Cotton Award winner for the Southeast.
Don’t try and make him accept that alone.
“I’m proud to get the honor, very proud, but all we are able to accomplish every day is done with a team effort,” he said. “I may be the offensive coordinator or maybe even sometimes the referee, but without the team we have now, we wouldn’t get it done.”
Autauga Farming Company is spread over Autauga and Montgomery counties just west of Montgomery, Ala. If you can grow it in a field, orchard or raise it in a pasture or pen, they’ve likely done it.
In 2023, they planted 2,400 acres of row crops, which included 1,100 of cotton and about 600 acres of corn. They also planted oats, wheat and sesame. They maintain a large brood-herd and manage about 2,200 acres of pasture and hay.
They sell bulk fertilizer to area growers and offer prescription applications and custom-harvest services. Andy is a director at SunSouth, a regional John Deere dealer.
Louisiana farmer Edward Greer who farms 8,500 acres of land in and around Rayville and Start, La., has been selected the 2024 High Cotton Award winner from the Delta. He also raises rice, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum and corn.
His family has farmed in Rayville, La., since the 1800s. He relies on three current generations of family to sustainably and fiscally manage the operation.
Greer and his wife, Gail, actively farm with their son Brooks Greer, and son-in-law Mike Barras. Edward’s daughter Crystal Barras is the principal bookkeeper and record keeper for Greer Farms Partnership.
He has evolved the irrigation function of the operation from floom ditches and syphon tubes to poly pipe and precision application. Greer also runs a land leveling business and does custom harvesting and planting, in addition to managing Simplot Grower Solutions in north Louisiana and southeast Arkansas.
He is able to run the family operation and manage his various other obligations by delegating and relying on his tight knit family and associates who value trust and look to Greer for insight and generational experience.
Richard Gaona, Roby, Texas, calls himself a “skip-row guy.” He cites this field management technique as key to his cotton production success and a practice that “always produces cotton.” Gaona, who’s been growing cotton for nearly half a century on the Texas Rolling Plains, is this year’s Southwest High Cotton Award winner.
Gaona and his wife Judy produce 3,000 acres of dryland cotton and 200 irrigated, along with 1,350 acres of wheat and hay and 700 pasture acres for their commercial Angus beef cattle.
Limited irrigation and drought are reoccurring issues in his region. He credits skip-row planting, contour terracing, crop rotation and cover crops on his irrigated ground for helping him conserve water while increasing production. Years of participating in field variety trials have helped determine the most adaptable variety for his soils. FiberMax has proven most consistent.
As Gaona’s management strategies continue to evolve, he’s most recently been experimenting with root growth stimulants, allowing him to reduce fertilizer use.
Service within his community and cotton industry is also a passion, an attribute Gaona credits to his late father and first-generation Texas landowner Jeronimo.
Growing cotton in the desert is challenging. Intense summer heat, occasional insect infestations, and urban encroachment are nothing new for Jerry Rovey, who’s farmed west of Phoenix, Ariz., for over 60 years.
Rovey continues farming cotton in a region that, perhaps sooner than later, will close a chapter on farming in Arizona as cities like Buckeye, Tolleson and Goodyear continue to merge in a seamless urban landscape surrounding Phoenix. Once just a small farming community some 30 miles west of downtown Phoenix, Rovey’s seen his region grow rapidly. In 2017, 2018 and again in 2021, Buckeye was America’s fastest-growing city.
Rovey owns Flying R Farms in Buckeye with his wife, Dianna and their sons Dean and Todd.
Rovey grows upland varieties along the Gila River, alongside alfalfa, wheat, and silage corn. Since 2008, Rovey has partnered with Deltapine cotton and its New Product Evaluator (NPE) program to test new varieties under desert conditions. The program is a collaboration between Deltapine and cotton growers across the U.S. Cotton Belt.
About 10 years ago Rovey pushed one of those full-season DP varieties with some extra water to yield over seven bales per acre in one plot.
The High Cotton Award is sponsored by Americot, BASF Stonevilee/FiberMax, Deltapine, Dyna-Gro, Helena, John Deere, PhytoGen and Syngenta.
Read more about:High Cotton
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