Big accolades for a quiet, 33-year-old, who wanted only to be a farmer and follow the path laid out by his father and his grandfather.

His grandfather, Henry, moved to the Dos Palos area from Eureka in the 1950s to dairy, and Chad’s father grew the family’s first cotton crop in 1975.

At his parents’ insistence, Chad went to Merced Community College, but farmed at the same time. When time came to transfer to California State University, Fresno, he wanted to stay home and farm full time.

His father laughs, recalling when he and Chad’s mother, Rhonda, drove him to Fresno to make sure he enrolled.

“We watched to make sure he went in the doors,” chuckles Bill.

Chad is glad his parents nudged him. He graduated in 2001 with a degree in plant sciences with an emphasis on agronomy.

“Chad is a very progressive farmer,” says Whittaker. “He stays up-to-date on new technologies, and practices solid IPM strategies and sound fertility programs. He is very innovative and fast to act on opportunities.”

Chad uses UCC heat units guidelines to determine when to plant. GPS guidance systems/yield monitors are on his equipment, and he has installed drip irrigation and water monitoring devices for efficient water use.

While Merced County is in the far north of the U.S. Cotton Belt, at the same latitude as Williamsburg, Va., the county average yield generally ranks a close second to Fresno County. In 2011, Merced’s 1,585-pound average was only 77 pounds behind Fresno. Chad’s 2012 cotton beat the county average by a long shot.

“It was a good year — maybe a little better than last,” he says, estimating 4.25 bales per acre on his 200 acres.

“We were down a bit on cotton acreage. We advance sold saw-ginned Daytona Acala for 97 cents per pound and wanted to plant more, but the price went down and we backed off.”

Next year, he says, if prices increase, he could go up to 700 acres of cotton on his family’s 1,800-acre operation. Their other crops in 2012 included processing tomatoes, alfalfa, corn, melons, vegetables and 40 acres of permanent pomegranates. In the past, he has also grown chili, small grains, organic Pima cotton and hybrid Hazera cotton.

When cotton prices fall, Chad considers himself fortunate to have economic alternatives.

“Twenty years, ago 90 percent of the land around here was cotton after cotton,” says Bill. “We used to be happy with 3-bale, maybe 3-1/2 bale cotton. Now. we shoot for 4-bales, and a lot of that is due to the good rotation programs we currently use.”