January 31, 2019
In January I attended the 2019 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans, La. — my second Beltwide but my first trip to New Orleans. The conference was held at a high-rise hotel near the French Quarter. My room was on the 32nd floor.
Having a room near the top of a high rise has its advantages. First is the view. Looking out my window I could see the sun rise and set on the Mississippi River as ships arrived and left the port sounding their whistle. I could also see the brightly lit streets below and hear faint sounds of sirens, music, and honking horns. Friendly, I’m sure.
But staying on the 32nd floor also means lengthy elevator rides. For some, this would mean awkward silence. For me, it meant I had a captive audience. Everyone has a story. If the person was wearing a cap or the obvious lanyard, I would begin with, “Are you here for Beltwide?” Typically, the answer was yes. Those who wanted to engage my curiosity would respond with, “You?” I would then ask if they were a grower.
On one of my elevator adventures, I met the 2010 Farm Press High Cotton winner Jimmy Hargett and his wife Pat, from Bells, Tenn. After Pat introduced herself and told me who her husband was, I repeated his name back to her in hopes of remembering it, so I could tell our Delta staff we had met. While I rarely forget a face, I’m horrible with names. Whatever name I said to her, she repeated back, “It’s like Target but Hargett.” That, I remembered!
Another encounter was with a tall, slender gentleman with a quiet disposition dressed in a navy suit. My first impression was: He’s not with Beltwide because he’s not wearing a cap or cowboy boots. But then my thoughts gravitated to maybe he’s a presenter. So, I broke the silence and asked, “Are you here for Beltwide?” to which he kindly smiled and replied, yes. I proceeded to tell him I was also and that I was with Farm Press. The elevator stopped, he exited and that was that.
The next morning, I began the day at the Cotton Sustainability Session, where Dr. Jesse Daystar discussed U.S. cotton sustainability goals. Next on the agenda was a presentation about the U.S. Cotton Industry Sustainability Program.
As I watched the next speaker take the podium, I had one of those moments where you have to laugh at yourself. Recall my last elevator interrogation with the stranger in the navy suit? Well, apparently it was Dr. Gary Adams, president and CEO of the National Cotton Council, who I would argue was definitely in New Orleans for Beltwide. I guess I’ll need to brush up on “who’s who” in cotton before the next one!
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