Steve Stevens, the 2019 Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton Award winner for the Mid-South region, was honored Feb. 28 during the Mid-South Farm and gin show in Memphis, along with winners from the Southeast, Southwest and the Far West.
Stevens is a Southern gentleman, a pilot, a traveler and a danged good cotton farmer, who is plowing some new ground, or not plowing it, to be more accurate, to improve soil and water conservation.
Steve admits that he, reluctantly, after several invitations, agreed to turn some cotton acreage into a Discovery Farm. The University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts use Discovery Farms to evaluate moisture retention and runoff from fields. It also measures the nutrient load in water that leaves those fields. The discovery process also identifies and demonstrates ways to improve moisture retention and to mitigate runoff.
A combination of reduced tillage and cover crops has limited runoff and nutrient load in the little bit of water that leaves the fields. Moisture sensors help schedule irrigation. Sensors at the field edge measure runoff and nutrient levels. Cereal rye, Steve says, makes a big difference in water infiltration.
He’s not just a cotton farmer; he represents his industry with long service to Cotton Incorporated. This year, he is off the Cotton Incorporated Board after serving 14 years. He leaves the board with a bit of regret. “It was fun being in the middle of all that,” he says. “I had the privilege of chairing a Cotton Research Committee the last couple of years, and it’s rewarding to witness the work and effort going into cotton research.”
He credits a lot of the farm’s success to good help, including his son-in-law, Wes Kirkpatrick, and Perry Wilson, a key employee who has been around the farm since he was in second grade. He credits his wife Darlene, too, and says if she and the others didn’t pitch in, he would not have had the time to serve on the Cotton Incorporated Board.