It's High Cotton! This is one of our favorite times of the year at Farm Press. Annually, we honor U.S. peanut and cotton growers for not only their yields but how efficiently they produce those crops. The Peanut Efficiency Award is presented in July. But this month, it's cotton's turn. Four cotton growers from across the Cotton Belt will receive the Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton award.
As agricultural editors, we visit with countless growers each year. We know firsthand this nation is farmed by the best of the best. So, when we get to spotlight one grower in particular, it's an honor!
The 2020 Southwest winner is Dan Smith. As I sat around his kitchen table in the home where he's lived since he was one, he and his wife Reeda Cay talked about their 45 years of farming near Lockney, Texas. We discussed everything from the past to significant changes throughout his career to the future.
Prior to lunch, the couple walked me through Dan's office, formerly Reeda Cay's sunroom. As they pointed out different items, they explained their significance. For example, he has shelves filled with model tractors. Each of the "toy tractors" represents a tractor Dan owns or owned, including those his father, Bryan Smith, once owned.
On the wall, Dan points to a photo of himself as a child with his father, standing by their 1963 Chevy pickup; his dad with his arm wrapped around Dan's young shoulders. Within the same frame, is another photo of Dan and his father standing in the same spot, only 25 years later, in front of a 1988 Ford.
Next, Dan directs me to a picture frame that includes his father's 1961 stock certificate in the Sterley Gin, along with one of his bale tags. Dan's father owned the gin along with nine other men. The plant, which ginned 8 to 10 bales per hour, was a half-mile from Dan's home. "I grew up bicycling back and forth." All that remains today is the foundation.
But also, on display in Dan's office is an antique clock that once hung in the Sterley FW&D Railroad Depot. The railroad, built in the late 1920s near his farmhouse, was a junction of four lines from Fort Worth to Denver. Following our interview, as I looked at the picture I took of the clock, I not only remembered its poignant tick-toc, but I noticed Dan's reflection in the glass covering the clock.
How telling. While Dan is a history buff about Lockney, agriculture and his restored 1969 Chevy Chevelle, he also embraces the future. Change is inevitable. But rather than demand time stand still, Dan has welcomed it, even adopted it, something that has not only yielded success on his farm but paved a path for generations to come. Congratulations, Dan and Reeda Cay! Job well done!
To learn more about Dan and Reeda Cay, see their photo gallery, Cotton: 'lifeblood' for Lockney, Texas farmers.