BY TOMMY HORTON
Remember back in December when I was talking about some remarkable cotton crops produced last year in the Mid-South, Southeast and Southwest – even though weather conditions were less than ideal in those regions? Well, we stumbled onto one of those success stories in an area north of Lubbock, Texas, near Hale Center. This has to rank as one of the more amazing examples of a producer defying all of the odds and delivering a four-bale crop.
You’ll get a chance to read how Robbie Harkey accomplished this feat in our cover story on pages 10, 11 and 12. We had heard about spectacular yields being achieved across the Belt, but what makes this situation so unusual is that Texas has been in a serious drought for three years. How does a farmer pull off this kind of miracle?
As Robbie will attest in our story, it takes a combination of many factors. It requires high-performing varieties, drip irrigation, excellent management and timely rains. You might also add another element to this equation – complete commitment. This is where Harkey sets himself apart from a lot of farmers. He learned through trial and error how to manage a farm during a long crop season. In short, he delved into the business side of his operation and meticulously examined every item in his crop budget.
You also could say that he never became complacent. His consultant James Todd says Robbie is always thinking ahead and trying to head off problems before they occur. He’s also open to new ideas and isn’t afraid of technology. After talking to this West Texas farmer and his fiance Shelly, I thought Robbie could probably run for political office. He has an engaging personality and is ready to share information with anyone curious about how his cotton delivered in such spectacular fashion in 2012 and 2013.
Let’s face it. Every farmer in West Texas knows that water issues will continue to affect cotton production now and into the future. Because of that reality, Harkey didn’t hesitate to invest in a drip irrigation system for his 1,200 acres. It also helped when his area received an unexpected six-inch rainfall one night last July. That gave his cotton a much-needed boost for the rest of the summer. As Robbie likes to say, “that crop just took off.”
For my Texas friends in the Lubbock area, I advise you to drop in on Robbie and see his operation in Hale Center. He isn’t a farmer who seeks attention for what he is doing. But he doesn’t mind sharing details on how his farm delivered a four-bale yield. Was it a miracle crop? Can it be duplicated in 2014? Was it the perfect storm? It’s hard to say.
Frankly, I am betting that Robbie will find a way to make it happen again. Stay tuned.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to: email@example.com.