No matter how quickly the cotton industry may evolve and advance as we march forward into the 21st century, some traditions will remain the same. And for those of us who cherish history and the simple things in life, it’s a reminder of what’s really important in the grand scheme.
We can marvel at the technological breakthroughs that make U.S. cotton the envy of the world because of its reliability, quality and integrity. But none of this amazing technology and productivity would be possible if it weren’t for the expertise of the family farms that make it happen every day. Perhaps that is an oversimplification of the situation.
Then again, maybe the story you will read on pages 10, 11, 12 and 13 is another example of the special bond that exists among families who farm together. The remarkable story of the Palmer family in Arizona is repeated thousands of times across the Cotton Belt. While it’s true that many sons and daughters of farmers leave home to pursue other careers, you’ll still find many who stay to work with fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins.
It’s a tradition that has to be experienced to be totally understood.
In the case of the Palmers, it’s a case of three families who are passionately involved in agriculture. This isn’t merely a case of three men who walk out the door every morning and head for the fields, leaving their wives to do other chores around the house. This is a farming operation with three husbands and three wives, and everyone has a specific responsibility. In other words, each person has a stake in the farm business and contributes to its success and profitability.
What makes the Palmer story so interesting is that all three families live in the beautiful Gila River Valley in southeast Arizona. Their houses are a few hundred yards apart, which means that nobody has to travel too far for a family event or even a family reunion. The valley is surrounded by mountains, making for a challenging but successful environment to produce a cotton crop each year.
Don’t let the scenic view of the mountains fool you. The area is susceptible to drought, water shortages and even an occasional El Niño monsoon during the winter. But, true to their family heritage, the Palmers usually find a way to handle the elements. They lean on each other and somehow survive just as their farming ancestors did in 1883 when the first Palmer farm was started in this beautiful valley.
Today’s family farm can be described in many ways. In the case of the Palmers of Thatcher, Ariz., we can think of only one word...special.
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