A brief glance at the face of cotton production would indicate that there are a lot of older men growing the crop. But, a deeper look reveals that a new and diverse generation of cotton producers is helping to move cotton forward, even in light of obstacles producers may face.
According to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, 14 percent of principal farm operators are women. Arizona, in particular, is highlighted as one of the states with a higher concentration of women producers than the rest of the country.
Many female producers in the West are actively engaged in maintaining cotton as a viable crop in their various operations.
Cassy England, a fifth-generation cotton producer from Casa Grande, Ariz., didn’t start out to be a cotton producer, but with the influence of her family, she is vested in the industry.
“I wanted to work in a spa,” she says. “But, that was not what I was meant to do.”
Early Experience Helped
She joined the operation by working in the office. It afforded her the opportunity to set her own hours and be with family. She has since moved into the management of field operations, partnering with her grandfather, Don England, on a portion of the entire operation.
She is part of an active and informed group of women who make up a vocal part of the industry. The Cotton Research and Promotion Program has taken notice of this segment of the industry and in June sponsored a women’s tour of Cotton Incorporated’s headquarters in Raleigh, N.C. England was part of that group.
Initially, she did not intend to join the family’s operation, which grows 2,400 acres of cotton.
“Cotton is something I have loved since I was a small child,” she says.
“Although I did not have the intention to go straight into farming, it has been something near and dear to my heart.”
England comes from a good line of progressive producers, and she is following in those footsteps. Given current water concerns in the West, she is looking to more efficient ways to deliver water to her crop, aside from current practices of low-till management and laser leveling.
Her operation also works with Deltapine on variety plots and hosts the annual field day, which highlights tested varieties.
In addition, England helps with approximately 1,100 acres of alfalfa and 1,400 acres of wheat with her uncle Donny and his son, Donny.
Ready For The Challenge
When asked about the future of cotton in Arizona, she says that she has no plans to stop growing cotton. And, she’s helping to influence the next generation of producers as a board member for Pinal County’s FFA Program.
“Someone has to feed and clothe the world,” she says. Obviously, she is up for the task. Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. Contact him at bmurphree@ cottonboard.org.
Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.