I have met so many genuine and interesting people over my 20 years in the cotton industry. When I meet new people, I'm often asked, "Where were you born?" I respond with the same pat answer, "In Blytheville, Ark., but my dad was a football coach and a bad one, so we did move quite often."
It always gets an immediate laugh, and I quickly admit that he was a great coach and each time was lured by better opportunities. We were lucky enough to end up in the Mississippi Delta for the first several years of my childhood, first living in Marks and then in Clarksdale. Both my parents were born in Drew, Miss., home of Archie! (If you just thought "Archie Who," you probably have a lot of Tennessee collegiate game-day apparel).
We often made the hour-long drive from Clarksdale to Drew for holidays and family functions. The Delta was a wonderful place to grow up. Back then, cotton was king. The deep, rich alluvial soil begged for cotton seed, and my mother has often told me of a triple date where they parked on the turnrow and watched the tractors plowing at night in the early spring.
Before my father was a football coach, he was a player, and his Drew High School football team won the Delta Valley Championship in 1954. He went on to play at Delta State University, and my mother also attended Delta State. John Vaught gave him a tryout at Ole Miss, but a 170-pound tackle didn't stand a chance!
Despite not having been raised on a farm, my extended family, the friendships and lifelong memories I made during those years became exponentially invaluable to me as I met new people in the industry and learned about cotton from countless researchers. In the Delta, even if you're not related, you're still connected. Growing up, I remember seeing tractors, cotton trailers and other equipment on the roads around the Delta; but as a child, I was more interested in riding my Schwinn bicycle all over town, having the high school cheerleaders coddle over the coach's son and playing every sport the city park commission had to offer. Little did I know that I would join the Cotton Board and begin writing about what I was oblivious to and taken for granted so long.
The innovative products, processes and research findings developed through Cotton Incorporated funding have played a significant role in helping our country's cotton producers become the most efficient and sustainable producers in the world. Through the years, I have written about Cotton Incorporated's award-winning television advertising campaigns and how they reestablished consumer demand for cotton apparel. And in the '90s, their vision recognized the huge potential the Chinese consumer market represented for
The office in Shanghai is poised to celebrate 15 years of successful cotton work in Asia. When Cotton Incorporated's research facility flooded one too many times, Cotton Incorporated and The Cotton Board voted to construct a multi-purpose, world class facility that stands as the benchmark for cotton research.
In 2009, I told our audiences how Cotton Incorporated, along with Texas A&M, developed ultra-low gossypol cottonseed, which will open up huge doors in the food and feed markets. The success stories at times seem endless and after banging on keyboards telling readers about Cotton Incorporated for so long, my friends often laugh and quip, "Man, how in the world do you come up with something new to say about cotton?" I smile and reply, "All I have to do is stay in touch with Cotton Incorporated's staff." Their passion for cotton not only fuels my journalistic motor, but it fuels every stop of cotton's supply chain across
I hope to see you in the Delta! Blue Skies.
– Brad Robb, Memphis, Tenn.