Taking a moment to read the My Turn stories on the back page of Cotton Farming is something I truly look forward to every month. It has always been one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy it most because the short stories about this most interesting crop and all the outstanding people in this great industry simply remind me of home; they make me think of family and friends.
When I think back about some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life (not just lessons, but the real foundation of my character and ethic – the things that make me who I am), there were some pretty influential people involved. And when it was “lesson time,” if we weren’t standing in the middle of a cotton field, there was usually one somewhere nearby! In a recent My Turn tale from Pat O’Leary, she used the phrase “cotton gets in your blood.” I certainly have been blessed to have it in mine.
I grew up in the small Mississippi town of Drew. As I write this article, I’m sitting at my desk in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Let me tell you that it’s a long way from Drew. I often joke that if I kept going just a little farther west, I’d be headed back to Drew. Being 15,000 miles from the place I refer to as home somehow makes the memories more vivid and special.
The first and only real job I’ve ever had besides the one I have now with the great team at Dow AgroSciences was working for a cotton consultant based out of Drew, Miss. Tucker Miller, my dad, was my first employer. I don’t even remember doing anything but checking cotton with him every day…every summer. I loved it.
There was one summer that I was able to talk my “employer” into letting me play baseball during May and June. Practice times weren’t great for a cotton consultant, so I worked for my grandfather, H.T. Miller, Jr., on his cotton farm. I remember the great attitude he had every single day. I remember the way he treated his fellow employees with respect.
I headed to Mississippi State University in 1998. (I could write another article about how much I miss that place and the sports that go along with it. MSU football doesn’t receive much coverage in Australia). During those years, I learned from some of the best – Will McCarty, Dan Reynolds, Scott Stewart, Don Parker and Henry Pitre, to just name a few. Upon completion of a bachelor’s degree, I stayed at MSU and earned a master’s degree, working with some of the “greatest cotton minds” of our lifetime – Johnnie Jenkins and J.C. McCarty. I learned a lot more than just how a cotton plant grows.
Upon completion of graduate school, I was given another excellent opportunity to work for Dow AgroSciences. I’ve been given the almost breathtaking chance to work nearly around the world for this company. I worked with the team that launched PhytoGen cottonseed in the southeast region of the United States. My first real boss other than my dad was John Monko. His drive to succeed, commitment to his team and honesty made him a “cotton guy.”
At present, the cotton industry and agriculture as a whole, are faced with many challenges. They are presented to us by nature, by our governments and by time. But we’ve got the foundation to overcome them. We always do. We keep getting better, and our future is bright. To quote my dad, we’ll be seeing plenty more blue skies and white cotton.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes. A famous bluesman, Long John Hunter, once said, “I developed my style by pickin’ a lot of cotton, plowin’ everyday. I just got the rhythm and any rhythm I need I know where it is; I know where to find it.”
I developed my style in a cotton field. I am sure we all did to some degree. Just remember that any rhythm we need…we know where to find it.
– Hub Miller, Sydney, Australia