Ron Smith 1, Senior Content Director

March 21, 2011

3 Min Read

Some interesting communiqués have arrived via phone and email over the past week or so, some in response to the article I wrote recently on my mother’s expertise at picking cotton; others commenting on the column I did on “Made in America,” and one of my own volition checking on a colleague.

Seems that more than a few folk recall picking cotton by hand. And quite a few commented on how much they could pick in a day, how much they got paid for it—not much in most cases—and the scant difference in what they could get for a bale of cotton back in the early 1950s and what they could sell for just a few years ago.

Add in the incredibly higher cost of production today, compared to 1953, and most agree that they made no progress, at least not until cotton topped $1 a pound last year on its way to $2 and up.

Several callers and e-mailers caught the mistake I made in not accounting for turnout in my estimate of what my mother would have gotten for the cotton she picked. Can’t do anything about that but admit my mistake, thank you all for noticing and print a correction, which we have done online and will soon repeat in print.

Also, I don’t recall that anyone who remembered picking cotton by hand recollected that they enjoyed it all that much. It was hard work. One Northeast Texas farmer said he once picked with the best cotton picker he ever knew, a big-handed man who seemed to stack cotton up his arm as he rapidly moved through the field filling up the 12-foot long picking sack dragging along behind.

Several readers called about the “Made in America” column and agreed that the country has sent far too much of its manufacturing capacity overseas. Several noted that it makes little economic sense to send cotton to Latin America and then ship finished goods back here. They also mentioned quality problems.

Several indicated that retooling America with good blue collar jobs would result in a significant economic stimulus, restore confidence and help whittle away at the huge trade imbalance we currently run, especially with China.

Cotton folks say they wish they could find garments made in the U.S.A from U.S. cotton.

Finally, I took a few minutes recently to check on former Southwest Farm Press editor Calvin Pigg. Several people had asked about him over the past month or so, and, since I had not talked with Cal in quite some time, I called to see how he and his wife Tommie were doing.

Turns out they’re doing fine. “We have a few creaky joints,” Cal said, “but we’re doing okay.”

He said they travel to Wyoming several times a year to see their two children and grandchildren, who graduate from college later this spring and have career opportunities already lined up.

Cal said he occasionally has dreams about working for Southwest Farm Press, which shows that what we do gets in our blood and sticks around. Calvin was editor of Southwest Farm Press from its inaugural issue back in 1974 until he retired in 2000. We talked a bit about the early days of Farm Press—I came on with Southeast in 1978—and how publishing has changed in three decades.

He said electronic publishing would not be his choice assignment.

It was good to chat with him and Tommie, and we agreed that we need to touch base more often.

Now, you’re all caught up, too.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like