About two years ago, shortly after starting my position as a PhytoGen cotton development specialist with Dow Agro-Sciences, I had dinner with Arkansas crop consultants Don and Kim Benson and their two young daughters.
Having two young daughters of my own, I engaged them in conversation about raising children. They shared with me some of the activities in which their daughters were involved, and how the girls spent summers working in the consulting business to earn spending money.
After having dinner that night, it was apparent to me that Don and Kim were practicing parenting skills that taught many of the positive attributes typical of children who grow up on a farm or in a farming community. Their success was evidenced by their daughters’ mature behavior at dinner.
Working in the cotton industry, my wife and I have lived in farming communities in the Southeast and the Delta where we have noted some common characteristics of people living in those areas. They frequently embody the tenets of hard work and respect for others, and they are teaching these ideals to their children.
In 1975, many years and a full head of hair ago, my father and I walked over to our neighbor’s house and purchased a 1965, “three on the tree,” full-size Chevrolet truck for $300. The truck had endured negligence to say the least and needed a fresh coat of paint, so my father handed my brother and me some paint brushes and a can of blue house paint. As dilapidated as it was, the old truck was the most valuable asset we had in our business of selling firewood.
On Saturday mornings, while most of my friends slept in or watched cartoons (like we wanted to), my brother and I left the house early with my father to work in the woods. At the time, it seemed like sheer drudgery, although I did like earning $4 per truckload by age 10. On a good day, we could cut three loads of firewood, but it also had to be delivered, which frequently occurred after dark. While this does not measure up to the number of hours required on a farm, it was an effective means of giving us a good work ethic.
It would have been easier to simply toss the wood in the bed of the truck without stacking it, but my father required the wood be stacked neatly, which took about twice as much wood and time.
The customers always appreciated knowing they had received every bit of what they had paid for in these important transactions.
Raising children in the 21st century is challenging, but not nearly as challenging as the world they will face. They will have to be able to adapt and perform in professions that have not yet been created. The values you instill in your children will be the ones they fall back on as they make their way in the world.
As history has taught, the practice of agriculture can lead the nation through tough financial periods. Furthermore, we want people with ideals similar to those learned on farms during those periods, which brings us to the cotton industry.
With the leadership of American cotton producers as individuals and organizations like the National Cotton Council and Cotton Incorporated, we will survive the challenges ahead. This leadership is one reason why I feel comfortable enough with the sustainability of the cotton industry to work in a role limited to only cotton and for a company that is going “away from the industry herd” by still investing tremendous resources into cotton genetics and biotechnology research.
Cotton farming in the United States will endure challenges, although it also will continually evolve. Meanwhile, let’s focus on the things we have control over in life, like equipping our children for the world they will face.
– Joel Faircloth, Collierville, Tenn.