Sixteen years ago, I was a college student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, two hours away from my family’s cotton and peanut farm on the Texas Rolling Plains, searching for long-term significance – and a part-time job.
As I was perusing the classifieds in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, my eyes settled on an ad for a newsroom clerk. I had the experience, I suppose – at the age of 12, I was “publishing” my own newspaper from a typewriter, making copies, and distributing it on the streets of Rochester, Texas. I wrote about a local grower’s hot pink peanut trailers, tales from the cotton gin, and other stories of interest from our tiny town – some 100 percent factual, some perhaps embellished a little by the source but entertaining nonetheless.
Little did I know that my love for newspapers and writing would be the beginning of my trajectory into one of the most significant opportunities of my life. That job at the Lubbock A-J, I learned at the interview, would include writing obituaries. I came to realize that there are few greater responsibilities in writing and paying attention to detail than in a final memoir of someone’s time on this earth. The clerk job grew into an internship where I covered agriculture, and that’s when it became apparent that this industry was where I belonged. Even as I moved on to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, agriculture was part of my program of work, because in Lubbock, agriculture and business go hand in hand.
All of these highlights built upon each other. For example, I first met Steve Verett and Roger Haldenby while I was reporting for the Lubbock A-J. Steve later was chairman of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce during my time there, and Roger led the agriculture committee and numerous other initiatives. I loved working at the chamber, but I once told Roger, “You know, working at Plains Cotton Growers is pretty much the only job I’d consider leaving the chamber for.” Again, little did I know that only a year or so later, that would become reality.
After five years at Plains Cotton Growers, I still am a relative newcomer to the cotton industry, although I’ve been part of the cotton family since the day I was born, as evidenced by numerous photos my mom snapped of me sitting in the middle of a cotton field during my early years. My dad, both grandfathers, and generations before that all made farming and ranching their way of life, instilling in me a love for agriculture that only has grown over the years.
The best part of my job is working alongside and for others who share that love and spirit. I continue to be immeasurably blessed by and thankful for so many who have helped me learn and grow, especially my families both at work and at home. For our team at PCG, it is more than a job – it is a calling, a passion, a fire that we all have to serve this incredible industry and its people.
However, it takes even more than that to experience the kind of success that positively contributes to a farming operation’s bottom line. We must have dedicated growers who are willing to serve on behalf of their fellow producers, whether it’s on a gin board, with a regional grower organization, or becoming involved with the National Cotton Council, Cotton Incorporated or The Cotton Board. So, if you’re a grower reading this, and you’ve been of service in any capacity, thank you for stepping up to the task.
I could say that this job has become a part of who I am, but upon reflecting, I realize that it always was. Although times have been tough lately for growers across the Cotton Belt – including my family – it is exciting to think about what’s to come because of so many great leaders advocating for Team Cotton, and I am grateful to be a part of that.
– Mary Jane Buerkle, Lubbock, Texas
Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Plains Cotton Growers Inc.