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Anderson County, Texas, farmer John McFarlane made better than two bales of cotton per acre, dryland, and with no rain from the end of May until September.
"More cotton on Fewer Acres," was the theme for a 1924 cotton yield contest.
It was a good crop, however. McFarlane made a profit. Total production cost was $301.12, including 12 cents per hour for labor, 10 cents per hour for horse or team hours. Fertilizer cost was $48.75. Picking cost, $1 per hundred pounds, $122.75. Ginning cost was $63.50.
Profit was $193 per acre with cotton bringing 23 cents a pound. That includes a $100 value for cottonseed.
One reason organizers offered for McFarlane’s success was that he had always been a diversified farmer. “Mr. McFarlane has followed diversified farming ever since he made up his mind to take over his mother’s farm and manage it,” according to the contest brochure.
Farm acreage totaled 300 but he planted only 90 acres in cotton. He also raised and sold vegetables, watermelons, fruit, chickens, dairy products and hogs.
“The McFarlanes produce practically all those things on a farm which insure a good living,” contest organizers said.
McFarlane himself, in an article he authored, wrote about his commitment to conservation. “There are some things I insist on being done, and to my mind are necessary for a maximum production of cotton.”
He said low land should be drained and all upland should be terraced “so as to prevent washing.”
He insisted on a “good solid seed bed,” and that the cotton “should be cultivated rapidly.” He recommended weekly cultivation. Weeds, then and now, rob nutrients and moisture from cotton plants.
He also advised all farmers to check with experts and “consult with their county agents until they have considerable experience in producing more cotton per acre. There is one thing I want to say to my fellow-farmers, which is that the good Lord and fertilizer are not going to make a cotton crop.”