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Change has driven Southwest High Cotton winner’s career

Dan Smith thanks the Lord and his wife, talks about sustainability.

Forrest Laws

March 24, 2020

Not many farmers have a 1969 Chevy Chevelle they bought for $100 or rooms full of memorabilia, each piece of which has a story of its own.

Dan Smith of Lockney, Texas, does. Smith is the Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton winner for the Southwest.  As much as he loves farming, he also enjoys telling visitors the history of items acquired during his 50 years of farming and before.

Shelley Huguley, editor of Southwest Farm Press, talked about Smith’s love of history and farming before presenting Smith with the bronze Cotton Boll trophy, which each High Cotton winner receives, during a breakfast at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis, Tenn.

“He may be a cotton farmer, but the man knows his history,” said Huguley. “Whether it’s his 1969 Chevy Chevelle he bought from his childhood friend Larry Bob Williams for $100, which may have been the getaway vehicle in high school, or the Sterley Community with its railway or the Sterley Gin his daddy owned, along with nine other men, Dan can tell you about it.

“And, while it is so apparent that Dan values history, what makes him the perfect candidate for the 2020 High Cotton award for the Southwest is he also values change. Throughout his 50 years of farming, its been about change: changing how he irrigates so it is more efficient, changing his harvest equipment, changing how he manages the soil so there’s something for the next generation.”

Upon acceptance of his award, Smith said, “I just want to make it clear that Larry Bob and I mainly just drove the Chevelle to church.”

Smith said he had several he wanted to thank. “First of all, I want to thank my Lord who makes it all possible. And my wife Rita Cay. I was very lucky in that I married the girl that lived down the road from my dad’s farm.

“She understood farming, and we hit the ground running, you might say. We’ve been side-by-side during the highs and the lows, the good times and the bad. If you’re a farmer you know what I’m talking about, but far more good times than the bad. I couldn't do it without her.”

Smith also thanked his sister and brother-in-law, Marilyn and Charlie White, who traveled from Boston for the event, and his local Helena dealer, Chris Cummings, who traveled from Lockney to Memphis.

“As far as sustainability, we talk about that word a lot,” he said. “In the 1970s and the 1980s when I was really learning, I guess we had that word. We might have said conservation. But the two men I really need to thank are my father, Brian Smith, and my father-in-law, Reid Lawson, because they’re the ones that taught me how to farm.

“They really cared about the farm and the land, and they taught me. That’s something they taught me was just an unspoken love for the land.”

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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