Saturday, April 20, 2024

A Love Of All Things Cotton

When I was approached about writing this month’s “My Turn” column, I was very honored, then quickly very humbled once I saw some of the amazing authors who had gone before me. I am a fairly ordinary guy who has been blessed with the ability to live out a dream of mine.

I grew up and have spent my entire life, apart from my college years at Mississippi State, in Somerville, Tenn. I watched my grandfather and father work on a family farm that was mostly Polled Hereford cattle with a little cotton every year. I am one of five boys, and we were expected to work on the farm and in the fields from the time we were old enough to do so safely. We chopped cotton, baled hay, birthed calves, dug fence posts, moved trailers to the gin…you name it, we did it.

I have many memories from those days, but some of my fondest involve a man we called Toot. He was the brother of the lady who raised me, Daisy. He was a jack of all trades. He loved to hunt, fish and tell tales. He taught me so much about life and how to always be happy, even when you don’t have a lot.

Every afternoon when I got home from school, I went to work on the farm. I remember riding a one-row cotton picker with Toot in the fall. I would lean up against the fan and try not to fall asleep!

Throughout high school and college, I scouted cotton via the Extension program. It taught me a lot about cotton, its pests, the way it matured…and, it gave me the opportunity to work with some of the area’s best cotton growers.

I went to college thinking that I would be a veterinarian. Organic chemistry (or maybe it was fate) changed my direction. I got a degree in ag economics. About half way through college, I decided I wanted to come back home to farm. My older brother, Bill, had recently graduated and started to farm. I came back and joined him. We grew cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat. Much later, we started a trucking company that specializes in ag and oversized hauling.

I can honestly say I love what I do. I believe farming is what I was meant to do. I enjoy putting the seeds in the ground and nurturing the plants in the soil. And, I am always looking for new, innovative, cost-efficient ways to improve the process. I am, after all, just the caretaker of the land.

We have moved from two-row pickers when we started to building six-row pickers in the mid-’90s to onboard module pickers today. Precision ag technology has always interested me. Several years ago, we made the decision to hire a consultant to help us with our nutrient management. This was a huge undertaking, but has been worth the investment of time and money.

Today, our land has improved and our crops perform better. Basically, we can say now we farm by the inch with regard to application of nutrients. Currently, we are working with many cover crops to improve soil productivity and organic matter.

I could go on all day about the many things we do to embrace new technology. I believe my formative years and the people in them, including my years becoming an Eagle Scout, shaped who I am today and nurtured my love of the land and all things farming. My wife, Marjory, works in the cotton industry and shares my love of all things cotton. We are blessed to be able to raise our girls, Katharine and Addison, in the same environment that I grew up in.

— Bob Walker
Somerville, Tenn.

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