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I wouldn’t trade this year’s virtual High Cotton experience, lost trophies, and all.

John Hart, Associate Editor

May 4, 2021

3 Min Read
2021 Southeast High Cotton Winner Jerry Hamill and wife Bettye Hamill at their home in Enfield, N.C., on April 16. John Hart

Despite the many challenges we have seen since the pandemic came on the scene more than a year ago last March, we are surviving, and life goes on. The 2021 High Cotton awards weren’t immune from COVID-19, with this year’s awards presentation like no other.

For the past few years, the High Cotton Awards have been tied to the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis. The High Cotton breakfast would kick off the gin show each year at the Sheraton Hotel across the street from the Renasant  Convention Center in downtown Memphis. That was the plan for 2021.The gin show was slated for Feb. 26-27 with the High Cotton breakfast set for Feb. 26.

Up until January, there was still hope the in-person gin show would be held. But on Jan. 25, show organizers announced that the 2021 show would move to a virtual event.

But as they say, the show must go on. This year’s High Cotton Awards went virtual for the first time. The virtual awards presentation held on National Ag Day, March 23, received 2,800 views on Facebook, actually reaching more folks than attend the breakfast each year. That is one plus of life in the Zoom age.

One inconvenience was that FedEx lost the High Cotton trophies for three of the four award winners. Delta Farm Press Editor Brent Murphree was able to personally pick up the trophy for Delta winner Doug Scott of Sikeston, Mo., and present the trophy during the awards presentation at Scott’s farm. The other trophies for Robbie Robbins of Altus, Okla.; Phil Hansen of Corcoran, Calif.; and Jerry Hamill of Enfield, N.C., had to be re-ordered to be delivered to the winners at a later date.

Sandy Perry of the Farm Press staff persevered and ordered new trophies for Robbins, Hansen, and Hamill. The glitch of a lost trophy also created a good opportunity for me to visit Jerry and Bettye Hamill one more time at their beautiful home in Enfield on April 16 to personally deliver the trophy. It was a great pleasure to see them again on a beautiful spring day.

When accepting the award during the virtual presentation from his dining room at home, Hamill once again displayed his trademark grace and charm. He  credited his friends and colleagues for nominating him for the award. Like all High Cotton winners, Jerry Hamill is a true All Star.

“I don’t think we could stay in business today if it wasn’t for the increased yields by new varieties and increased quality of cotton. It takes a lot of work. You can stump your toe occasionally, but you have to just pick yourself up, brush yourself off and go again because nothing  is really easy in farming n this day or time, or it never has been,” Hamill noted  in the video shown during  the awards.

“It’s quite an honor my peers would think that much of me. I started out very small farming like my father was. You learn something every day or it doesn’t work if you don’t. It’s quite an honor. I’ve had some very close friends who got the award, and I know how proud I was to know them,” he said in the video.

Unless the coronavirus is still raging come 2022, next year’s gin show and High Cotton breakfast will be in-person once again. Let’s hope so. We all want the pandemic to end and for life to return to normal. Still, I wouldn’t trade this year’s virtual experience, lost trophies, and all.

Take a look back at our 2021 High Cotton Winners.


About the Author(s)

John Hart

Associate Editor, Southeast Farm Press

John Hart is associate editor of Southeast Farm Press, responsible for coverage in the Carolinas and Virginia. He is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Prior to joining Southeast Farm Press, John was director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. He also has experience as an energy journalist. For nine years, John was the owner, editor and publisher of The Rice World, a monthly publication serving the U.S. rice industry.  John also worked in public relations for the USA Rice Council in Houston, Texas and the Cotton Board in Memphis, Tenn. He also has experience as a farm and general assignments reporter for the Monroe, La. News-Star.

John is a native of Lake Charles, La. and is a  graduate of the LSU School of Journalism in Baton Rouge.  At LSU, he served on the staff of The Daily Reveille.

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