There was a time not too many years ago when you could drive south on US 61 from Memphis and see fields of white cotton on either side of the highway. It was a beautiful sight. This was the heart of cotton country in the Mid-South. In those days, Mississippi planted nearly one million acres of cotton and, as the cliche goes, King Cotton ruled.
Then, in a matter of a couple of years, the corn and ethanol explosion occurred, and the region’s cotton farmers reluctantly made an economic decision. They switched huge amounts of cotton acreage into corn and soybeans. Why not? The prices for those commodities were too attractive to turn down.
Thankfully, some Delta producers never completely left cotton. They had too much invested in equipment and infrastructure, such as gins, warehouses and oil mills. One of those cotton operations belongs to Cliff Heaton’s family in Lyon, Miss., just north of Clarksdale.
It’s hard to miss this operation as you drive south on US 61. Just as you pull into the northern outskirts of Clarksdale, you can see the small town of Lyon off to the right. Near the highway, you can also see a sign that advertises the Heaton Pecan Company. This is just one of many business enterprises the family owns.
The prettiest sight might be a few yards to the south of the highway where multi-colored tarps cover many modules waiting to be taken to the Bobo-Moseley Gin located just another block to the south. As you’ll see in our cover story on pages 8 and 9, we have taken a quick look at this facility, and why it is one of the most efficient gins in Mississippi. Its history goes back nearly a century.
I had known of Cliff Heaton and his father Bill for 25 years and never had the opportunity to meet them. After passing the signs on the highway near his office for so long, I figured it was time to stop and visit before the ginning season cranked up again.
This might be the most tranquil and peaceful setting that I’ve ever seen for a farm office and gin. After exiting US 61 at Lyon, I drove a short distance to a three-way stop and turned left on Killebrew Street. Then I went a few blocks past historic old churches, beautifully manicured lawns until I reached the brick farm office on the left and the gin on the right.
After I walked into his office, Cliff and I suddenly realized that we had many mutual friends, including his sister Darrah. He then summed up the objective of every business the Heatons own. Be honest with your customers in everything you do. That one statement said it all.
Customer service always pays dividends.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to:
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