I look forward to those farm visits that inform my mind and inspire my soul.
Whoooosh. That’s the sound of another year disappearing into hyperspace at warp speed.
That one was quick. Seems like just a month or so ago we were putting the 2013 High Cotton Award issue to bed and gearing up for another year of farmer interviews, crop reports, weather updates—read drought reports—market analyses and observations about the continuing debacle of failed farm bill discussions.
It didn’t rain much—again. But a few spots got just enough rain at just the right time to make decent yields. And a few spots got too much rain at just the wrong time to ruin what was shaping up to be decent crops. In spite of a slow start, dry planting conditions and poor germination, wheat farmers in Northeast Texas made bumper yields, thanks to a Christmas snowfall that provided enough moisture to coax seedlings out of the ground.
Boll weevil numbers diminished again with hopes that the more than 100-year boll weevil war will soon be over.
So, it was a typical year in the Southwest—too much, not enough, just the right amount.
It was also another good year for interviews.
Back in April I had one of the most unique interview opportunities I’ve encountered in my 35 (and counting) years of covering agriculture. On a cold Wednesday morning I sat down with Mr. Elmo Snelling, 98, of Plainview, Texas, and spent the next few hours mesmerized by his account of a farming career that spanned more than 60 years. He was sharp, witty and knowledgeable and still actively engaged in farming. Mr. Snelling is an inspiration.
The following day I met up with Kristopher Verett, 28, of Rawls, Texas. Verett was being recognized the following day by Bayer CropScience as a one-ton cotton producer. Four-bale cotton is never an easy accomplishment, but with the drought conditions that defined 2012, the achievement is even more remarkable. Kris Verett is an inspiration.
I was struck by the similarities of two farmers at opposite ends of their careers. Both are innovative, using subsurface drip irrigation to make every drop of water count as they push to improve profit potential. Both have a deep tradition to call on to gauge both success and failure. Kris learns from his father and uncle; Mr. Snelling can look back on decades of both hardship and bounty to realize that one year doesn’t define a career. A bumper crop may precede a catastrophe and sometimes a farmer can take neither credit nor blame for either extreme.
Other farmers, other interviews, also made 2013 a memorable one. I touched base with some farmers and ranchers I had not seen in several years and was pleased to be welcomed with warm smiles and cooperative attitudes. If I start listing all the meaningful interviews I conducted over the past year I’ll leave some good ones out, so I’ll leave it at these two examples, but will note that I learned something valuable from every farmer I talked to. I always do.
As we look forward to a new beginning, I’m hoping that Congress can get its act together and pass a farm bill that will help these farmers stay in business. I hope the recent precipitation—snow, sleet, ice and rain—continues and provides better opportunities than has been the case for the last three years. I hope markets and production both stay up.
But mostly I look forward to those farm visits that inform my mind and inspire my soul. I wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.