A plaque in the kitchen of Johnny Little’s boyhood home succinctly states his father’s formula for cotton production: “Pray for a good harvest — but continue to hoe.”

As one might guess, the connection between prayer and hard work was not paradoxical for the elder Little, although his son, Johnny, winner of the 2013 High Cotton award for the Delta states, will attest it leaned heavily toward the work side of the formula.

John Morgan “Buddy” Little, an ex-Marine, passed away in the spring of 2012 at 89, leaving his son to carry on as the farm’s primary proprietor. Johnny’s philosophy differs slightly from his father’s — “Hard work comes easier when you enjoy what you do.”

Little farms 1,175 acres of cotton and 350 acres of corn near Holcomb, Miss. He and his wife, Patrice, have been married for 25 years, and have three daughters, Aubrey, Melinda, and Melissa, all between 31 and 32 years old, and five grandchildren, four boys and a girl.

According to Bayer CropScience’s Steve McPeek, who nominated Little for the High Cotton award, “One thing that sets Johnny apart is that he is willing to try new things and think outside the box to address problems on his farm. He is willing to adapt to changes in production and the market.”

This includes cutting back on cotton acres for more corn and putting in three grain bins, as grain prices continue to show strength.

But says Little, “I’ll always have cotton in the mix because cotton has always paid our bills.”

His operation is based on maximizing efficiency by keeping equipment in tip-top shape, making variable-rate applications, using no-till, following label instructions and recommendations from his consultant to the letter, and of course, hard work.

On a recent day, Little’s picker operator, Josh Coffman, is steering a 10-year old John Deere 9986 through the nooks and crannies of a rolling, dryland field, followed by Little, hauling a boll buggy. Two temporary employees man two module builders at the edge of the field. Little’s uncle Bill Little, who’s 82, is running the stalk cutter.