Thirty-four years ago in 1975, a young Arkansas farmer was featured on the cover of Cotton Farming magazine, and his message was appropriate for that era. He was preaching the importance of earliness in his cotton production strategy. The headline on the story proclaimed: “Plant early...avoid disk in winter.”
Andrew Whisenhunt might not have known it at the time, but he was obviously an early proponent of minimum-till production and a pioneer in innovative farming. The story goes on to explain why this farmer was proud of his farm and even prouder of his wife Polly and their five children. They were in a perfect place in Bradley, a small town in southwest Arkansas.
It isn’t often that 34 years go by before this magazine revisits a farmer after his photo has been on the cover. But that is exactly what has happened in this month’s issue, and you’ll find his remarkable story on pages 6, 7 and 8. Isn’t it ironic that Whisenhunt’s message today is similar to what he was discussing in 1975? He’s still expounding on the advantages of planting a crop early, and he continues to promote his unique skip-row technique just as he did many years ago.
Had it not been for a phone call I received from him in August, I might not ever have gotten the chance to drive to Bradley, Ark., and see his operation firsthand. But he was insistent that I needed to see how his management style could produce record-breaking yields and quality. Initially, it seemed like a long trip (300 miles), but after seeing how he consistently delivers yields between 3 and 5 bales per acre every year, it was a trip I’ll never regret making.
A lot has happened since those days in 1975. But one thing hasn’t changed. Whisenhunt is still an innovator and treats his small cotton acreage as if it were a rose garden in his backyard. He pampers and meticulously attends to every detail during the season. And did we mention that he also served as president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau from 1986 until 1999? He journeyed to Washington non-stop during this time period as he represented his state on important agricultural issues. He also traveled the world on numerous trade missions for his state.
Today, the pace is much slower for Andrew, but nothing has diminished his love of producing cotton. And even though troublesome rains have made this fall season a bit more challenging, he still believes he has a shot at producing between four and five bales per acre on some of his acreage.
Does that seem possible for a farm in Arkansas? It does if you farm in the fertile Bradley Bottoms in the southwest corner of the state. As Whisenhunt likes to say: “It’s the best kept secret in Arkansas.”
Guess what. It’s not a secret anymore.
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