Chad plants Daytona cotton, an older variety developed by California Cotton Planting Seed Distributors and now marketed by Bayer CropScience. Although it has a reputation for being tough to get out of the ground, he says it can be worth the wait because it is more heat-tolerant than other varieties.

“It seems to have a better fruiting cycle with our weather; we cool down more at night more than other areas.” He’s talking about days of 110 degrees and nights of 82 — ideal for the right cotton variety.

He hill drops 4 seeds and aims for a plant population of about 58,000 per acre. All his crops are on 40-inch centers. For tomatoes, it’s 80-inch beds.

Chad wants his cotton in by April 10 and out by the end of October. Dos Palos has a tendency to get early fall rains, and growers hurry to get cotton out.

Farming, he says, is a “constant learning curve,” which is a big reason he signed up for the Sustainable Cotton Project.

“Cotton growers can be stuck in their ways,” he says. “We need to look to other people to prove to us there may be greener ways to grow cotton, using fewer pesticides.” The sustainable project “allows us to balance things.”

The Crivellis will treat for insects, but only “as needed.” “We have released beneficials like lace wings, ladybird beetles and minute pirate bugs,” he says.

They plan to always have cotton in their rotation.

“One thing that has helped us stay in cotton is cottonseed prices,” Chad says. “With a 4-bale crop, cottonseed can mean $100 per acre of income.”

He remains committed to the sustainable program and has produced organic crops, but grows annoyed when there are no rewards for a commitment to reduce cotton’s carbon footprint.

Bill says, “We get a little frustrated when we reduce the of use pesticides and do things to improve air quality, then some of the people who come to the farm go back to San Francisco and do and say things that make it difficult for us to farm.”

Nevertheless, Chad is committed to looking for better ways to grow cotton, and has gained the admiration of his neighbors.

Daniel Burns, San Juan Ranch, who won the High Cotton Award several years ago, says, “I’ve known the Crivellis for 30 years; Bill and I went to school together, and our kids grew up together.

“Chad is a hard worker. He’s out in his fields every day, scratching and clawing like the rest of us in farming.”

Burns notes that Chad has been a leader in the sustainable project, “which has benefitted the cotton industry in meeting formidable challenges.

“Chad and the Crivelli family are very deserving of the High Cotton Award. They not only are good farmers, but are community leaders who are well-respected in this area.”