I am a sixth-generation farmer in Bulloch County, Georgia. I operate Cromley Farms in partnership with my brother, Charley, where we grow cotton and peanuts. When pickers roll this fall, it will be the 40th crop I have taken to harvest.
As Thanksgiving approaches, there are many things for which I am thankful. One of those is the friendships I have developed through the various cotton organizations and association boards on which I have had the privilege of serving through the years.
The collective efforts of these boards, their staff and leadership offer all cotton farmers the best hope for economic viability as an industry moving into the future. Their foresight and influence have been the linchpins connecting opportunities to successes for decades.
Moving cotton from “dirt to shirt” is a complicated process across a complex supply chain. Although our industry is represented by many different organizations, each has a unique, well-defined role; however, sustainability and long-term growth are central goals of them all.
State organizations such as the Georgia Cotton Commission play an important role at the grassroots level, acting as a voice for growers on the turnrow. Their assessment dollars are invested prudently in targeted research, promotion and education programs to benefit Georgia cotton producers.
Southern Cotton Growers, where I am the current chairman, maintains important regional roles as a mechanism to build grower consensus, develop policy, and share challenges and farming solutions from growers in other regions.
From there, national organizations like the National Cotton Council, Cotton Council International, Cotton Incorporated and The Cotton Board provide effective representation across our entire country and across the world.
As I have listened and participated in discussions at meetings through the years, I recognized a commonality in many of our industry organizations that make them so successful and effective — passionate grower leadership and professional staff.
I marvel at the quality of grower leadership and the ideas and perspectives they bring to meetings that help mold initiatives, programs, research projects and policies. Cotton producers from California to Virginia and all states in between unselfishly give their time to improve an industry that provides a livelihood for them and their families.
These organizations are staffed by some of the most talented and professional people anywhere. The true strength of these organizations lies in their staff and leadership. I am honored to be associated and serve with them.
“My goal this Thanksgiving season is to cultivate a more thankful heart.”
In early June, I was speaking with a farmer friend who told me how a freakish cold snap leading to a late frost wiped out his entire 2020 cotton crop just as it was emerging. After some economic analysis, he determined it was too late for him to replant.
As I stumbled around for the right words to say, he quickly shifted the conversation toward family, friends and faith. He explained what a blessing it is to be able to farm and how thankful he is for that privilege.
Here stood a man who will not harvest the first cotton boll in 2020. Despite that fact, he managed to cultivate something much more important this growing season — a thankful heart.
In these uncertain times when our industry and country continue dealing with a pandemic, trade wars, declining cotton prices and other things that challenge us, my friend made me realize we all need to be thankful for what we do have.
So my goal this Thanksgiving season is to cultivate a more thankful heart — thankful for the temporal blessings of today and the eternal blessings of tomorrow.
Paraphrasing two of my favorite Bible verses in Psalms; I get my strength from the Lord. He is my shield and my heart trusts him. I hope you have a safe and bountiful cotton harvest this season. I hope your cup runneth over. Mine surely does.
— Lee Cromley