Growing up in Houston, Texas, I was not exactly surrounded by much in the way of agriculture. However, my grandfather was a corn and hay farmer near Waco, Texas, so I did get to spend summers in fields watching him work. I remember knowing he got up every morning way before the sun did, made himself breakfast and was in the field before the rest of us woke up.
During harvest, he didn’t come in for lunch, so my granny and I brought lunch to the field. Those were the days before cell phones, so it was always a game to figure out where we would find his tractor. I still look at those fields near 12th Street and see us sitting on the tailgate of his two-toned Chevrolet pickup eating.
Papa eventually had to pull back from crop work and focus more on cattle. I loved going with him to feed in the evenings. This was his life. So much so, there were times I’d hear him calling cows in his sleep. I should’ve known then the ultimate example of hard work.
I grew up, went to college, planned on a career in a big city and wasn’t around agriculture much more. Then God chuckled. Just as I was about to graduate from Texas A&M University and move back to Houston, I met Mark Nemec. He grew up working fields and learning from his dad, Mr. Stan Nemec, to scout and check for bugs.
That summer, Mr. Nemec’s best friend passed away suddenly. Though Mark was not then working in ag, when Mr. Nemec was contacted about helping farmers finish their season, he recommended Mark. Mark worked two jobs that summer to get them through the season. Enough farmers asked him to stay that he turned to consulting fulltime. That was 29 years ago. Today, Mark still works for a handful of those original farmers and now even some of their sons. For them, I will always be grateful.
I just thought I knew what hard work was then.
I should’ve known what I was in for when we got engaged on a Friday night and were BOTH in fields counting cotton squares the next morning. Since I’d graduated and started working, weekends were the only time we had together. Most of that time was spent in and between cotton fields.
I grew to respect Mark and his work ethic over the years. I could see how his heart poured into every field. He still agonizes over each recommendation because he knows what helps make a better crop comes at a cost for the farmer. I can truly say he loses sleep and frets over each crop as if it were his own. Many nights we’ve been up at 3 a.m. watching a line of storms, praying we would get the right amount of rain. But only rain, not hail, ice, high winds or tornadoes. Some years, we got all five on the same fields.
Now that we’ve been married almost 29 years, I’ve learned much more about the industry and Mark. I’ve learned those RARE days we get lunch, we wait until AFTER the daily farm report so he can hear the weather and market forecast. I’ve learned we don’t take summer family vacations, to adapt to long work days and that he’s going to give 110%.
But I think our best contribution to cotton and agriculture is how much our daughter, Cassidy, loves it. I’m so proud she’s been raised to understand and appreciate the role of a farmer and the crops they provide for our country and others. Most children these days don’t have any idea what’s involved in getting the jeans they wear or the bread they eat. I once said I was convinced Cassidy was the only 10 year old (at that time) who knew the difference between good bugs and bad bugs in a cotton field. She loves agriculture and feels incomplete without fields in her life in some way. Mark couldn’t be more pleased!
Now it’s “My Turn” to be proud and grateful. Mark was recognized as Cotton Consultant of the Year (2010), the only second-generation winner of this award after his dad, Stanley Nemec (1987). In my world, he is consultant of the year every year. And Cassidy is now associate editor of Cotton Farming magazine, editor of Rice Farming magazine and editor of Soybean South.
My Papa would be so very proud.
— Carol Nemec