One of the first places I visited when I moved to Texas and Southwest Farm Press back in the summer of 1999 was Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. Over the years, it has become an invaluable source of information and I drop in on them almost every time I travel to Lubbock.
It’s always a combination of information gathering and social call — I truly enjoy having the opportunity to chat with PCG staff.
On my first visit, I remember sitting in on a Friday morning information exchange and meeting Executive Vice President Steve Verett, Communications Director Shawn Wade and another staff member who, with his first words made me think: “You’re not from around here, are you?”
Roger Haldenby, vice president for operations, despite living in the United States since the early 1980s, retains a British accent that no one would ever mistake for Texas twang. He’s been a U.S. citizen since 1989, but retains his British citizenship. “I’m proud of both,” he’s remarked on numerous occasions.
Since that first introduction, I’ve often had the opportunity to interview, visit with and exchange witticisms with Roger. He’s knowledgeable about cotton marketing, management and production. He’s good company. And he has a wicked sense of humor.
Sadly, he’s leaving Lubbock, setting up shop in Southeast Asia to consult with an international cotton company. He officially left PCG Feb. 28, but will continue to work full-time through the April 1 annual meeting, and will consult through August.
He’ll also “still look after the PCG radio and e-mail service for a while,” and vows to visit the U.S. “three or four times a year.” He plans to maintain a position on various cotton industry boards and says he will attend the Beltwide Cotton Conferences every year.
Roger will work closely with PCG after he’s settled in Southeast Asia. “With a telephone and the Internet, I can make calls for little or nothing from anywhere in the world,” he says. “Communication from a distance is not an issue — I can do a gazillion things from a computer.”
Roger started working with PCG in 1989, initially with the High Plains boll weevil control program. Since that program has been supplanted by the statewide Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, he’s assumed various other duties with the organization, including a radio broadcast and an e-mail newsletter and has become the “go-to- guy” for computer help.
He learned agriculture on the go, starting as high school student in England working on, among other enterprises, a potato farm. “I didn’t grow up on a farm and didn’t get a degree in agriculture,” he says.
He did learn to fly, however, and aerial application work followed. “I sprayed my first crop when I was 24,” he recalls. That led him to the U.S. and to the Texas High Plains in 1985. “I spent a little time in South Dakota one year, but except for that, all my time has been in Texas. I’ve seen a lot of growth with PCG since 1989.”
He took over management of the High Plains boll weevil control program following the untimely death of Ed Dean. The program focused on fall diapause sprays that reduced the number of weevils that survived into the winter and limited early-season damage. “We were not trying to eradicate weevils, just to take them out of the complex of insect pests through July. We wanted to protect the main crop.”
He says the program was successful, but when the Boll Weevil Eradication Program came in, then was halted for several years because of lawsuits, he and others were dismayed to watch their efforts “fall apart as boll weevils spread across the High Plains.”
He says PCG was instrumental in getting the eradication jump-started again. “It was a huge challenge, and disappointing when all the work we had done went to hell in a handbasket — it fell apart before our eyes. It was heartbreaking to see the program shut down.
“It was equally rewarding after the first five years of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program restart to see the process turned around, but at a tremendous cost to the state and federal governments.”
The investment paid off. “Now the High Plains is functionally eradicated. Without the eradication program we would not be looking at the record cotton yields we’ve had the past few years, and we wouldn’t be producing one-third of the U.S. cotton crop. Bringing people together to work on the boll weevil eradication effort has been one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done with PCG.”
He’s also watched as trapping methods and weevil counts moved from manual recordkeeping to computerized databases. Global positioning system technology also increased program efficiency, especially for mapping and spraying fields.
“As vice president of operations for PCG, I’ve enjoyed working with Cotton Council International. They bring folks from all over the world to West Texas on trade missions. It’s fascinating to interact with folks from everywhere, speaking different languages, with cotton as the common bond.”
He’s looking forward to doing more of that in his new role as an international cotton consultant. “I look forward to getting folks to talk to each other about the differences in spinning technology and other crucial issues.”
I’ll miss seeing Roger when I visit Lubbock. I’ll miss his knowledge and his wit. I’ll miss the discussions we’ve always enjoyed about movies and books. We even talk politics without rancor. But I’ll catch up with him at Beltwide, and will no doubt hear a few of his latest amusing anecdotes and how that British accent translates to Southeast Asian ears.
Although it’s almost cliché to say: Godspeed and safe journey to an Englishman outward-bound for Asia.