During the late 1950s through the early ’70s, I was blessed to grow up in the Coastal Bend region of Texas in a farming community called West Sinton, which was composed of a church, a grocery store and a cotton gin. The nearest towns were anywhere from 10-14 miles away. It was country life at its finest.
Some of my first memories about cotton included when people arrived every summer to help us pick our cotton. I always looked forward to this because they would bring their children, and I would have someone to play with during part of the summer. My first experience picking cotton was when I was about 5 years old, and my mother made a cotton sack for me out of an old pillowcase.
Then one summer, our first cotton stripper arrived and this dramatically changed things. Other memories included playing in the cotton trailers, taking the trailers to the gin, helping our county agent hand harvest some of the variety trials and swimming in the irrigation ditches. During elementary school, I realized how important weather was to our lives.
I asked my mother one day if I could have a new baseball bat, and she replied only if we get 2 inches of rain during the next couple of weeks. I prayed for rain and guess what happened? I got my baseball bat!
My college education began at Texas Tech University as a crops’ major in 1975. I still remember the class I took on cotton production, taught by Dr. Dan Krieg. Also, my undergraduate adviser was Dr. Jack Gipson. He had a huge impact on the direction I would take later in life.
While attending Texas Tech, my only claim to fame occurred in 1976 and 1978. That is when I drove a John Deere 482 cotton stripper from Lubbock, Texas, to 15 miles north of Corpus Christi, Texas. Traveling at 16 mph, you had plenty of time to see and think about different things.
On Dec. 1, 1983, I began my career with the Texas A&M University system and worked there until Nov. 31, 2013. I started my career as a county agent, then an integrated pest management agent and finished as an Extension agronomist. Eleven of those years were extremely rewarding and an invaluable experience relating to cotton.
This was when I worked as an IPM agent. Part of the job was scouting cotton fields in a three-county area. If you want to learn about cotton, this is the way to get started. Working with good cotton producers on a daily basis is a lot of fun and rewarding.
As my boss, Dr. Tom Fuchs, use to say, this is where the rubber meets the road. At the end of the season, it was always a great feeling to say it was time to defoliate. As an Extension agronomist, my geographical area was from Brownsville to Houston. No matter where I went, there were always people in the cotton industry who wanted to work with you and support you.
From there, I moved to Louisiana and currently work for the LSU AgCenter as the state cotton, corn and grain sorghum specialist. After working the entire Texas Gulf Coast, moving to Louisiana just reaffirmed what I have always said: There is no cookbook approach to growing cotton.
You realize very quickly that each different cotton production region has its own unique problems or challenges. All the different environments in which cotton can be grown are amazing. With the decreased cotton acres in Louisiana, it is always a sad feeling when you drive by a gin that is no longer in business, reminding us how the farming communities have changed.
In looking back over the past 35 seasons, I have prayed for rain many times since the first time when I wanted that baseball bat. Sometimes, I pray for it to stop raining in Louisiana. Also, learning to pick cotton at an early age came in handy later on in my life.
No matter if it is in Texas or Louisiana, there are good people out there in the cotton patch to work with you and support your efforts in bringing the universities’ knowledge and recommendations to the people.
— Dan Fromme
Research and Extension Agronomist, LSU AgCenter