Cotton Links

- Editor's Note -

These Young Farmers Embrace
The Future

By Tommy Horton

The story is repeated many times across the Cotton Belt, and it’s always refreshing when we come across it one more time. Even though the average age of today’s farmer has inched past 60, we still find examples of the younger generation continuing a wonderful family tradition.

What might that tradition be? Working as a farmer and following in a father’s footsteps. In today’s fast-paced world, we see too many instances where the sons and daughters of farmers leave home to pursue a different career. They simply either didn’t have the desire to pursue such a lifestyle, or maybe they didn’t think there were economic opportunities in the small town where they grew up.

Whatever the situation, we had better be thankful that there are plenty of young people who did decide to stay home, raise families and continue their dreams of being the next generation of farmers. You would be hard pressed to find a better example of this kind of commitment than what you’ll read about on pages 22, 23 and 24. Gem Mitchell and Andy Shelton of Bolivar, Tenn., are two farmers who grew up emulating their fathers and with only one objective – becoming a farmer someday.

They have succeeded in their quest, and their story is remarkable by any standard. They grew up together, attended the same elementary, junior high and high school. Their parents were best friends, and everybody attended the same church. Today, the friendship continues. The two families farm acreage close to each other. Gem and Andy’s children are best of friends. The wives are best friends, and both families take vacations together. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say this is too good to be true.

Take it from me, the future of farming is in good hands if the next generation looks like Gem and Andy. It isn’t easy being a farmer in West Tennessee, because this is dryland country. The terrain doesn’t lend itself to any kind of irrigation. Last year, a scorching heat wave and drought made it doubly difficult.

Somehow these two farmers, ages 38 and 41, found a way to deal with the conditions, moved some of their cotton acreage into corn, soybeans and wheat – and more than survived. They have what you might call a “can-do” spirit. After spending the entire day with these families, it was easy to be impressed by their enthusiasm for farming. They are meticulous in their farming practices and thankful for the careers they have chosen.

One other thing. How can you not like two farmers who insisted on having me join them for lunch at the downtown Burger King? If you’re ever in West Tennessee, look up these folks. They’re something special.

If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 5118 Park Ave., Suite 111, Memphis, Tenn., 38117. Or send e-mail to: thorton@onegrower.com.

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