I don’t remember just how many Beltwide Cotton Conferences I’ve attended over the years but I seem to remember a gentleman named Whitney speaking in the mechanization session at one of the early ones.
Suffice it to say, I’ve attended, covered and wrote about quite a few and look forward to the opportunity every year. Well, I look forward to the Beltwide with a mixture of anticipation and dread.
I know I’ll eat too much, drink too much Kool-Aide, stay out too late, get up too early and wear out a pair of shoes walking from one session to another. I usually come home with a sinus infection picked up most likely from shaking hands with hundreds of people carrying interesting germs and viruses. It’s par for the course.
It’s a long, hard week. But I wouldn’t miss it. I see people at the Beltwide I’ve known ever since I started plying farm writing as a means of earning a living. That may not go back to Eli Whitney’s day but it covers more than half of my lifetime.
Beltwide, as I’ve said before, is part technical conference, part endurance race, part family reunion and part party. It’s fun, frustrating and filled with information. I love it.
The latest session was no exception. I got home exhausted—partly from a flight that took a shortcut from Orlando through Cincinnati to get back to Dallas. I also stayed out too late, slept too little and walked until my feet ached. Typical Beltwide. I spent some time with my Farm Press co-workers—catching up, as well as with writers for other cotton publications and the wonderful media folk with the National Cotton Council, that we’ve known for years and enjoy seeing on occasion.
The educational sessions, as usual, were packed with information that we’ll do our best to present over the next few issues—both online and in print editions.
We also hosted another successful High Cotton Awards Breakfast, at which we honored four most deserving cotton farmers for their productivity, contributions to the cotton industry and their commitment to natural resource stewardship.
Shawn Holladay, who farms near Lamesa, Texas, represented the Southwest region and is an exemplary representative of Farm Press Publications, the Southwest Region, Texas and Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., where he serves as secretary-treasurer. Shawn is an excellent ambassador for agriculture, a well-spoken, knowledgeable farmer who can hobnob with politicians and association leaders and still talk cotton with his peers.
Meeting Shawn’s wife, Julie, was also a treat. She’s equally involved in the farm operation as well as more charitable institutions than I could keep up with. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner one night at Beltwide and we talked about cotton, families, books and the meaning of life as we know it.
We laughed a lot.
At the awards breakfast I was impressed with each of our winners—Kent Wannamaker from South Carolina; Coley Bailey, Mississippi; Don Cameron, California; and Shawn Holladay, of course, from Texas. Each winner expressed gratitude to family, friends, and other farmers and credited them for a large part of their success. They were all understandably proud of their accomplishment but all were reluctant to take much credit.
I was proud to be in the room with them. The High Cotton Award and the Beltwide breakfast are two of the most enjoyable things I do every year. They make the long hours, the meetings, the treks across the Southwest and the deadlines worth the efforts.
Listening to these farmers express how they feel about their families, farms and stewardship reminds me why I love this job.