BY LIA GUTHRIE
Bug man. That’s what I remember consultants being referred to when I started in this business more than 25 years ago. My, how times have changed. One of my first mentors was a family friend who happened to be a cotton consultant. Bill Renfrow of Leland, Miss., was the first person I had ever heard of that was a “cotton consultant.” One thing I remember about Mr. Renfrow when I was a teenager was that he got up very early during the summer to “check” cotton for his clients before putting in a full day afterwards at the Leland Compress.
I think back on those times with fond memories, and I now ponder how different times are today. The duties and responsibilities are much greater. I also recall that Mr. Renfrow was extremely well respected. That much of the profession has not changed.
I have had the privilege of being actively involved with the best of this group. Cotton Farming magazine and Syngenta have co-sponsored our Cotton Consultant of the Year program for many years. This fraternal group continues to inspire me as well as offer hope for the next season. Over the years, each winner has been profiled and recognized for his commitment to this industry. What makes this award so special to me is that the past recipients determine the winner.
While the consultants I know may have different challenges due to their location, they all have the same universal objective: What recommendations can I make to realize the most money for my farmers? Most are in the fields every day during the season making decisions on things such as pesticide applications, irrigation and, ultimately, crop termination. Each year is different. Weather conditions can wreak havoc on any and all of these production practices. I think of consultants as watchdogs for their clients.
If I could assign an emotion to cotton consultants, it would have to be humility. I can’t think of any of our past winners who have not expressed thanks and acknowledgement of others who helped them get their jobs done. Most are astounded when they receive news of their being inducted into this elite group.
I would also have to say they are adaptable. With a decrease in cotton acreage the past few years, consultants are faced with recommending rotation options as well as monitoring those commodities throughout the season. Okay, I can think of a lot of words that come to mind when I think of consultants. One more I think worth mentioning is compassion – not only for their clients but also for each other. I have witnessed firsthand the respect and friendship among consultants; especially when someone’s loved one is ill or someone has had a really hard year.
As we go into the 2014 season, I am reminded of all the things I should appreciate more…family and good friends.