Tag archive


More Than an Old Pair of Jeans

At last, denim is returned to its natural cotton fiber state and upcycled into denim insulation. Photo courtesy of Stacey Gorman.

or many, those old, worn out denim favorites mean nothing. Shoving them in the back of your dresser drawer, throwing them in the back of your closet, or putting them in an old trash bag full of clothes is what you might do. However, thanks to a program sponsored by Cotton Incorporated, the worn denim favorite means sending a portion of your closet to a community in need. 

Blue Jeans Go Green is a program that Cotton Incorporated uses as an innovative research and promotion effort. The program helps to work across the country to collect denim and recycle it into UltraTouch denim insulation.

 According to Bonded Logic, UltraTouch Denim Insulation is the grouping of 35 years of insulation experience and a revolutionary patented manufacturing process, which creates a superior and safe productfrom high-quality natural fibers. Once it is recycled, the program then provides a portion of the denim insulation to communities in need each year. 

“The program started in 2006, and it has since then diverted more than 2 million pieces of old worn jeans that have been repurposed into a usable product,” said Stacey Gorman, director of communications for the Cotton Board.

According to Cotton Incorporated Blue Jeans Go Green website, with the help of people like you and I, the program has recycled over 1 million tons of denim, 2 million pieces of denim have been diverted from landfills, and 4 million square feet of denim insulation have been manufactured over the past 13 years. By recycling worn denim into insulation, Blue Jeans Go Green keeps textile waste out of landfills and helps with building homes in communities in need around the country. 

Gorman said the program has given Cotton Incorporated ways to show they are sustainable and make a positive impact on the communities around them. As awareness continues to grow and new opportunities become available to recipients, Blue Jeans Go Green expects to see continued growth over the next few years. 

There are opportunities to participate in the Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling process. Some of the many ways to do this is to mail your denim, take it to a local retailer, school or event, or sign up online to start your own drive for recycling old denim. 

Gorman said Cotton Incorporated started this program by collecting money from a check off program from cotton growers and investing it in research and promotion to help improve the profitability and the marketability of their costs. Gorman said Blue Jeans Go Green came from their consumer marketing division and it’s just a way to really associate cotton and fiber with a feel-good message to consumers.

“It’s really inspiring to get to work and be a part of something that is so unique,” Gorman said, “but also beneficial to the environment.”

Gorman said communicating about a program like this is an effort for consumers to think about their blue jeans and what they are doing to recycle them, while feeling good about how they can impact the environment.

“Finding ways to show that we’re sustainable and really make a positive impact on the communities around us is super important,” Gorman said. 

Through the program, Gorman said Cotton Incorporated has coordinated denim drives on 82 college campuses and there are various brands and retailers that like to get on board with the program as well. Anyone can apply to host a denim drive, whether big or small, any effort can make a big impact in your community. 

PhytoGen, a U.S. cottonseed brand, is partnering with Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program to help spread cotton’s sustainability message. PhytoGen and the National FFA Foundation and local FFA chapters will be collecting old denim at various events throughout 2019 located in Anaheim, California, Memphis, Tennessee, Lubbock, Texas, Chandler, Arizona, and Tifton, Georgia. 

Derek Racca is the brand manager for PhytoGen and is the spokesperson for the partnership. He graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural education and communications from Texas Tech University and is excited about moving forward with this program.

“We are thrilled to partner with Cotton Incorporated and Blue Jeans Go Green to essentially bring cotton full-circle,” Racca said. “This program helps the communities in which our customers live and work by keeping denim out of landfills, as well as playing a role in donating insulation to charities, such as Habitat for Humanity.” 

Participating FFA chapters will have from the date the invitation is received from their sponsor until their designated event time. This process gives each FFA chapter approximately four weeks to begin collecting as much denim as they can. During each FFA chapter’s designated event, a representative of each chapter must deliver the collected denim to the designated location where it will be weighed. 

Racca said all of the denim collected for this contest will be donated to Cotton Incorporated for their Blue Jeans Go Green program. The FFA chapter that collects the most denim, based on the weight of the denim collected and weighed by the representatives of Cotton Incorporated, will receive a $1,500 donation toward their chapter. 

Through this partnership, communities are working together to get FFA students involved in the program. It is important in the programs efforts to grow and continue to change communities one piece of denim at a time. 

“PhytoGen is proud to partner with the Blue Jeans Go Green program in the continuing effort to help communities and FFA chapters thrive,” Racca said. “Whether its denim jeans, jackets, shirts or skirts, every piece of denim makes a difference.”

Reducing uncertainty on the Southern High Plains


arming practices on the Southern High Plains, and more specifically a farmer’s choice of whether or not to change them, are affected by irrigation methods and crop insurance.

Dr. Darren Hudson of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics is the graduate director and helps put together funding for research.

Dr. Hudson said, “We have students from all over doing research that impacts this area.”

Jorge Romero-Habeych is not your traditional student, he served in the Army and worked as an analyst in the natural gas industry before returning to school. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the University of Central Florida. As a doctoral student in Agricultural and Applied Economics, Romero-Habeych’s research explores how farmers choose irrigation techniques.

Agriculture on the Southern High Plains was significantly impacted by the introduction of center pivot irrigation.

 “Prior to the center pivot in the 1990s, … irrigation was very inefficient,” Romero-Habeych said.

By adopting center pivots farmers were able to sustain yields while using less water.

In recent years farmers have had the option of adopting an even more efficient alternative, subsurface drip irrigation. Adopting efficient irrigation techniques along with the right kind of crop insurance is essential for farmers to reduce their exposure to risk.

“Why is it that we don’t see a wider implementation of this technology in the area?” Romero-Habeych asked. “My theory is that crop insurance in conjunction with already existing irrigation techniques might be making drip irrigation less attractive,” Romero-Habeych said. “On the margin, adopting drip is relatively expensive and the benefit in terms of risk reduction is likely not worth the cost.”

In terms of water use, wider adoption of drip irrigation by farmers on the Southern High Plains does not necessarily translate to less pressure on the Ogallala aquifer. Romero-Habeych made an interesting point on the issue.

“Past experience with the center pivot shows that its adoption led to more water use. Farmers actually started using more water than before because they started planting in fields that had previously not been economically attractive,” Romero-Habeych said.

Using the most efficient farming practices possible is vital for all farmer’s to continue production and not give up yields.

“Perhaps drip irrigation would be more widely adopted in the area if existing crop insurance choices were not made available. The combination of current insurance and irrigation options to reduce risk exposure might be crowding out drip,” Romero-Habeych said. “However, that might be a good outcome for the aquifer.”

How farmers on the Southern High Plains are affected by government policies, along with understanding how they use the tools at their disposal to reduce uncertainty, is what drives Romero-Habeych’s research.

Cotton Classing 101

Danny Martinez, Area Director at the USDA Lubbock, Texas, classing office helped design the new and improved classing technology.

In 1907, a group of cotton representatives from around the globe met to resolve key issues throughout the cotton industry. A resolution was passed that established uniform cotton standards to eliminate price gaps and boost price potential for farmers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed cotton grading standards and began offering classing services.
This began an industry-government relationship that remains strong and viable to this day according to the USDA classing booklet.

This partnership between the government and the USDA cotton classing program is continuing to provide beneficial results for U.S. cotton farmers as well as cotton customers abroad.

Getting Started

The process of classing cotton starts at the gins. Where the cotton fibers are separated from seed, cleaned to remove any residue, and then pressed into 500-pound bales. For a cotton sample to be sent to the classing office, it must be at least 8 ounces. A sample of 4 ounces is taken from each side of the bale by a licensed agent and then identified with a Permanent Bale Identification tag. The total sample is then delivered to the USDA classing facility where licensed agents perform the classification under USDA supervision.

“Just like the gins, we never stop working,” said Danny Martinez, area director for the USDA cotton classing office in Lubbock, Texas.

The Lubbock classing office runs on a 24-hour schedule due to the high volume of cotton being produced in and around this region. This office runs off an average of 70 gins and produces an average of 140 samples per hour.

In 2017, approximately 4 million bales were processed here in the Lubbock classing office, that is almost 25 percent of the U.S. cotton crop.

Once the cotton has arrived at the classing facility, the samples are immediately placed in a moisture-controlled environment. The Lubbock facility is kept at 70 degrees Fahrenheit with 65 percent humidity. Environmental factors can affect the strength of individual fibers and the fiber strength measurements.


Martinez, an industrial engineer, helped design the new machinery in the Lubbock classing office to help class cotton more quickly and efficiently. The new technology has doubled the amount of cotton classed in half the time it took with the old equipment.

This new technology ensures precision and accuracy to meet minimum performance specifications. All equipment is tested annually before each cotton season begins, but Martinez said the technology is calibrated every day at the Lubbock classing office. There is certain cotton set aside for calibration testing.

“We calibrate this new technology daily to ensure the best process when it comes to classing cotton here at the Lubbock, Texas, location,” Martinez said.

Classification Process

In a process commonly called high volume instrument classification, the fiber length, length uniformity, fiber strength, micronaire, color grade, trash and leaf grade are precisely measured.

The fiber length of cotton refers to the average length of the longer half of the fibers. The length is measured by passing a beard of parallel fibers through an optical sensing point. The fiber length is often influenced by extreme weather conditions or nutrient deficiencies, which will result in shorter fibers.

Length uniformity is the ratio between the mean length and the upper-half mean length of the fibers. This number is usually a percent. Because of natural variation in cotton plants, this number will always be less than 100 percent.

Fiber strength is the measurements reported in grams per tex, which is equal to the weight of grams of 1,000 meters of fiber. The strength is measured on the same beard as the length is measured, thus the amount of force required to break the fibers is determined.  Fiber strength is also affected by weather conditions and nutrient deficiencies.


Micronaire is the measure of fiber fineness and matureness. This process requires measuring the air permeability of a constant mass of cotton fibers compressed to a fixed volume.

“Because the micronaire measures were very low in 2017,” Martinez said, “it resulted in a lower grade of cotton.”

Color grade of cotton is determined by the degree of reflectance and yellowness. Reflectance indicates how dull or bright the sample can be, while yellowness determines the degree of pigmentation. The color of cotton can be influenced by rainfall, freezes, insects or fungi. The deterioration of color affects the cotton’s ability to hold dyes or finishes.

Trash is the measure of non-lint materials in cotton, such as leaves or bark from the cotton plant itself. This procedure is performed using a camera to scan the surface of the sample. The percentage of surface area covered by trash particles and the number of particles visible are then calculated.

Leaf grade is the measure of leaf content in the cotton sample which is determined by the trash meter percent area and the particle count. Leaf grade can be influenced by plant variety, harvesting methods and harvesting conditions.

“I can be as precise as possible during harvest,” said Cal Francis, a farmer from Perrin, Texas. “And, I still will see measurable amounts of trash and leaf content in the cotton we produce.”

Once the cotton is classed, the USDA will disseminate the data into two formats: official classification information and statistical information regarding quality, volume and pricing. This information is available to ginners or their authorized agents as computer files or printed documents. The data is then available to subsequent owners of the cotton, such as merchants and manufacturers, which is who the USDA classing offices sell to.

According to those who work at the classing office in Lubbock, Texas, the classification of cotton is a very prestigious process. With as much cotton that comes into the Lubbock classing office, Martinez was not exaggerating when he said they work just like the gins, all the time.

“I would say the classing of cotton helps me be a better farmer,” Francis said. “Because I want a higher grade of cotton, I use better farming and harvesting techniques.”

4 Advantages of the New Round Bale Cotton Picker

Living in West Texas, cotton fields are a common sight to the population. When you drive down the highway during the spring the sight of empty cotton fields, which often look like dirt, is common. If you were to drive down the same highway in the fall, they would see tall green stalks with cotton bolls beginning to sprout from the branches. During cotton harvest season there will often be big green tractors driving up and down the cotton rows picking, harvesting and baling the cotton. Over the past few years in West Texas you might have noticed a round cotton module as well as a square cotton module.

Cotton is ready to harvest when the bolls sprout of the stalks. Photograph taken by: Maclaine Shults

John Deere is claiming the new round bale cotton pickers to be the biggest revolution in cotton harvesting and handling since the module builder was invented. The traditional cotton picker only picks the cotton bolls off of the plant. Once the cotton boll is stripped from the plants a boll buggy follows behind the picker, and receives two dumps loads full of cotton to carry to the module builder. The cotton is dumped into the module builder, which compresses the module leaving the module in the field until the module trucks comes to pick it up to deliver the module to the gin. The round bale cotton picker eliminates the boll buggy, the module builder and two tractors as it has the ability to do all of these steps in one, and is a non-stop harvesting process.

The new round bale picker picks the cotton, forms the cotton in a round bale and automatically wraps the bale in yellow wrapping. The $600,000 round bale cotton picker may be gut-wrenching to some farmers, but the new invention has four major advantages.

1. More efficient cotton harvesting

The round bale cotton picker picks up the cotton, forms a round bale and then automatically wraps the bale in Tama RMW. Tama RMW is a plastic coating wrapped around a round bale to provide protection. The picker has the ability to carry the bale, similar to a hay bale carrier, from one place to another continuing to pick cotton with the sensors on the picker. The traditional cotton picker can pick the cotton bolls off of 6 rows of plants at one time; however, the new picker picks the cotton bolls picking 30 inches to 48 inches at a time. This means the farmer picks more cotton at one time. One round bale holds 3.8 bales of cotton lint in a single bale.

2. Savings in labor and equipment

The new picker not only eliminates 4 pieces of machinery, the farmer saves money not only the pieces of equipment, but also saves money on fuel and labor costs. Eliminating the boll buggy, module builder and two tractors also eliminates having to pay five to six employees to run these machines during harvest. Their labor force is cut in half, as they only have to pay someone to operate the picker.

3. Weather resistance

The Tama RMW is made with an inner and outer layer of plastic wrapping for the round bale. The two layers help to ensure the bale is protected through tough weather conditions to maintain the quality of cotton. In windy conditions the structure maximizes the durability of the round bale and keeps it from breaking apart and losing cotton. This will also help the bale hold its uniformity during transportation and processing.

Round Bales
Yellow wrapping that farmers use to protect the cotton. Photo credit: Google Images

4. Ginning

Once the cotton is formed in to a round bale, a module truck will come to the farm and collect the bale from the field. From here the truck driver will deliver the bale to a gin for processing. The truck fits four round bales as oppose, to two square bales. Once the modules are dropped off at the gin, they typically sit in the gins module yard and are processed in the order they were delivered.

The development of the cotton gin revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States. The gin cut down on labor costs to harvest cotton tremendously. In order for the gin to continue to run efficiently they must adapt to the new inventions throughout time.The round bales allow the gin to store more bales at once without the yard getting full.While storing more bales of cotton at the gin is important, the gin appreciates that the round bales hold less moisture then a traditional module. In a traditional square module the moisture content is 10 percent to 18 percent; however in the round bales the moisture content is 6 percent to 8 percent. The majority of the moisture must be dried out of the cotton before it can be ginned and sold.

The new round bale cotton picker might be heavy on the checkbook, running around $600,000 each, but the advantages outweigh the cost of the machine. More farmers are adopting this new innovation because they have seen an increase in productivity and a decreasing amount of labor required to harvest cotton. As the population continues to increase across the world, there is a higher demand for cotton and products made from cotton such as clothes, sheets and many other necessities. Technology such as this will help meet that demand.

Underground Livestock: Reaching New Depths in Soil Health

RN Hopper showcases his healthy soils as a result of the no-till and other conservation practices he and his father have implemented since 2004.
RN Hopper showcases his healthy soils as a result of the no-till and other conservation practices he and his father have implemented since 2004.

Just north of Petersburg, in the High Plains of West Texas, lies what seems to be dry, unmanaged fields. The surface is cracked from the heat, and corn cobs from the past harvest litter the fields. But what actually lies in RN Hopper’s fields is anything but dry and unkempt. Beneath the surface is a world breaming with life and a future in sustainable agriculture.

Hopper Graduated from Texas Tech University in 2000 with a degree in agronomy. He came home to work with his dad, Ronnie Hopper, and together started Harmony Farms in 2004.

Hopper’s passion for farming and the land led to an understanding of the soil beneath the surface and how it can provide for him and the land in the future. This understanding was garnered from both his college education as well as an informative experience at a No-Till on the Plains conference in Kansas.

The main goal of Harmony Farms was to take what Hopper had learned and put no-till conservation practices into action.

“A lot of times when people start down the no-till road, they don’t seem to have success with it because they don’t have a diverse rotation,” Hopper said. “You have to have a very diverse rotation of crops; as many species as possible. For the most part, it won’t work over an extended period of time if you’re just cotton after cotton after cotton.”

Hopper’s fields cycle cotton one out of every three years. He follows cotton with wheat, wheat with corn, and corn with cotton. He said no-till practices are very much about getting a bacterial-dominant soil back to a fungal-dominant soil, which is done by ceasing tillage.

“We’re trying to return some of the structure to the soil,” Hopper said. “It’s impossible to build organic matter if you’re oxygenating the soil with tillage because it immediately gets consumed by the microflora, once it is gone, their populations crash.”

Hopper said a healthy soil has the equivalent microbial biomass of three to five beef cattle units per acre. That is a tremendous biomass that must be fed, and the currency of nature is carbon.

Burnett, Abbie-1938
RN Hopper holds the end of a 6 ft pole inserted into his no-till field. No-till fields are composed of compact, healthy fields soils that can hold 75 percent of rainwater.

“So, if you’re not cycling that carbon slowly and naturally into your soil, you don’t have anything to steadily feed that underground livestock,” Hopper said. “And if they’re not being fed, they die. And if they die, they’re not helping to make nutrients more available or doing the thousands of other things that they do.”

Hopper said these “underground livestock” are billions of microscopic organisms that live under the soil. They feed off carbon that comes from recycled organic material. In doing so, they help create healthy soil for future crop seasons.

However, cover crops and no-till are not just about returning carbon back into the soil. John Zak, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas Tech, said he has been working with RN for three years conducting research on microbial health and manipulation.

“Really what we’re trying to understand is how soil can do certain things in terms of productivity if you manage it,” Zak said. “They have their own microbiome the same way humans do. So, the question is, how do you manage that microbiome, and what are the consequences of managing practices to the functionality of that microbiome?”

Zak said the microbiome in soil is what directly contributes to crop yield. He attributes healthy soil to a healthy microflora. One determining factor that makes soil healthy is lowering the variability in daily temperature range, or DTR, which is the difference between how hot and cold soil gets in a 24-hour period. Zak took this idea to Big Bend National Park before using it in Hopper’s fields.

“We decreased solar input (on the soils).,” Zak said. “What that does is raise the night time temperature a little bit because the soils don’t dissipate as much heat, but they don’t heat up as much during the day. You decrease DTR by about three to four degrees centigrade.”

Burnett, Abbie-1938-10
RN Hopper pulls back the trash from past season’s corn harvest to show the cover no-till practices provide for the soil. Using practices like no-till and cover crops keeps the daily temperature range (DTR) minimal to develop healthier soils and microflora.

What was showed from the lowering of DTR in the soil, Zak said, is that microbial activity in soils can increase without any change in soil moisture by about 30 percent. He explained that one of the reasons deserts are deserts isn’t because of lack of moisture: it’s because of DTR.

Zak said the results from these experiments meant farmers could create healthier soils and higher yields without irrigating more than they were already.

Hopper said no-till has greatly increased water infiltration and holding capacity in his fields.

“(The fields) probably catch 70-80 percent of the rain,” Hopper said. “But, if you have something that’s conventionally tilled, there’s probably some of the times of the year they’re only catching 30-35 percent to be used by the plants and the rest is going to runoff or evaporate.”

Hopper said he and his father did not start irrigating last season’s cotton crop until the first week of August.

“I think we’re barely tapping the potential of what we already have,” Hopper said. “Most people argue no-till is worth 5 inches of water. I would argue that it’s considerably more than that. We have the ability to get to a point, hopefully, where we can consistently capture 75-85 percent of the rainfall and get it to the root zone. And in the worst conditions, the 35 percent zone. In my opinion, it’s usually a 5- to 8-inch advantage.”

Hopper said that cover crops or residue from the past season act as armor for the soil surface. and trash from past seasons acts as a barrier to the soil. When rain falls, the impact is busted on the cover crop and then drains into the soil.

“If it rains in permanent grass, the water doesn’t run out,” Hopper said. “It all goes into the ground. You’ve got mulch cover and grass to deflect the impact of the raindrops. You only see soil uncovered in two cases, shifting landscapes or a desert. But, you won’t see any other natural landscape that’s not covered in plants. You won’t ever find anything clean tilled in nature. If there’s nothing above ground, there’s nothing to feed what’s below ground. Most, if not all, of the benefits of no-till come from that mulch cover.”

I can see a future in farming without irrigation, but I can’t see a future without a healthy soil. RN Hopper

However, Hopper said this whole process has been a challenge and a good learning curve.

“By 2006, we were committed to continuous no-till. There was a lot of steep learning curves, and there’s not a lot of people out here that do it,” Hopper said. “And so, we made plenty of mistakes and continued to make mistakes, but we’ve never had enough trouble with it to deter us from staying on the path.”

Hopper said he believes that the future of agriculture in the United States and West Texas lies in no-till practices.

“I can see a future in farming with no irrigation, but I can’t see a future without a healthy soil,” Hopper said. “I don’t know everything, and I’m definitely not right about everything, but I know there’s not a best way to do anything, but only better ways, and that’s the very definition of progress.”

At the end of the day, all Hopper does for his fields is because of his love and passion for farming and the land, he said.

“People refer to crop production as yield: it’s what you get at the end of the day, but, really, it’s what nature has yielded to you,” Hopper said. “So, I guess what I love most about being a farmer is trying to be the best steward of what God has given us that I can be. And that’s the challenge and that’s what keeps me excited about each coming year, and that’s what gets me up in the morning — just the hope of what might be yielded to us at the end.”

Farm Bill 2018: Cotton headed in a different direction

Cotton field pictured during the golden hour right before harvest.

LUBBOCK, TX – Given the deadline to revise a bill in 12 to18 months, cotton farmers and legislators are switching gears from lint to oil, seeking alternatives to aid the American cotton farmer to offset the impact of three years of low commodity prices.

Lint cotton prices started to decline in direct correlation with the World Trade Organization ruling against U.S. cotton in the case Brazil vs. United States in 2002.

“When Congress did the last farm bill one of the things they did was remove cotton out of the Title 1 because that was one of the sticking points,” said Darrin Hudson, Ph. D, Texas Tech University Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics professor, was a result of that ruling.

In doing so, lint cotton was removed from Title 1 and moved into the insurance title of the farm bill.

Title 1 programs are traditional farm income and price support mechanisms. Other commodities in Title 1 receive payments equal to the difference between the legislated price and what the market price is. Essentially, if the market price is above the legislated price, the farmer/producer receives no payment.

Executive Vice President of Plains Cotton Growers Inc., Steve Verett said, “the [insurance program] was not going to provide the kind of risk management cotton farmers needed for the long-term price decline.”

“We’ve been looking at any other option or other ways that we can try to provide that Title 1 support,” Verett said.

Aside from assessing risk, cotton is a unique crop from the standpoint that it produces two co-products, lint and cottonseed oil, which Verett said is just as valuable as vegetable oil.

With oil seeds comprising a significant amount of products in the U.S. there happens to be a minor oilseed title in the farm bill.

“A thing about the minor oilseeds is, individually, there are very small acres but in aggregate they are an important component. And so they deserve that protection,” said Shawn Wade, director of policy analysis and research for Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Cottonseed oil recognition is at the forefront of Plains Cotton Growers Inc.’s agenda for this upcoming Farm Bill revision. Verett and Wade advocated for cottonseed oil to be recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Though cottonseed oil was not accepted in the minor oilseed title, the Secretary did hear the public and issued a one-time payment for the sharing of ginning cost.

Want to voice an opinion or keep up with the latest and upcoming hearings? Visit http://www.agriculture.senate.gov/hearings?mode=list to learn more.

The Department of Agricultural Education and Communications Department at Texas Tech University is considered a national leader in the discipline. The department offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in agricultural education, agricultural leadership, and agricultural communications. Faculty members represent a wide range of backgrounds, interests, and are involved in a variety of local, state, regional, national, and international activities and organizations. Visit www.depts.ttu.edu/aged/ for more information about the department.


2016-2017 Cotton Crop Brings Unexpected Measures of Yield and Quality

Cotton is king on the High Plains of Texas.

The 2016-2017 cotton crop year on the High Plains exceeded the expectations of many, including Plains Cotton Cooperative Association Director of Sales Grady Martin.

“There are a couple of things that made this crop unique,” Martin said. “One was the size. There is an old saying that ‘big crops get bigger.’ I think that is the perfect way to describe this one.”

The United States Department of Agriculture reported 10 million total cotton acres planted in the United States for the 2016-2017 crop year, which was a 1.4 million-acre increase from 2015-2016.

Not only did the increase in planted acres contribute to the size of the crop, but across much of the nation, weather conditions played a role in its levels of yield and quality, most notably on the High Plains of Texas.

“We had some late rains in August and then a warm October, which created the perfect conditions for this crop to finish itself out,” Martin said. “The other thing that was special about this crop is the quality, which has been higher than most crops.”

PCCA Director of Risk Management, Chris Kramedjian, said the quality and quantity levels of this year’s cotton crop have generated demand within the market.

“We have high quality, non-contaminated cotton coming out of the United States and there is usually a lot of demand for that,” Kramedjian said. “It has been a remarkable year to have a crop grow beyond expectations as much as this one.”

Improved demand in the cotton market is but one of the positive outcomes of this unforeseen crop. Martin said producers have also seen an improvement in their returns as a result, a factor that could also drive up cotton acreage for next season.

“With the yields that producers made this year, they are making more revenue per acre,” Martin said. “A lot of producers are looking at cotton, comparing it to other competing crops and thinking, ‘what do I need to plant next year?’ Right now cotton looks relatively good, so there should be more acres planted next year.”

Though the 2016-2017 cotton crop has finished, the potential held in the 2017-2018 crop is on the minds of market analysts and farmers alike.

“I think there is plenty out there to look forward to,” Kramedjian said.

Cotton has a Copy

Biopolymer & Fiber research Institute employee weighing cotton and visually analyzing the sample.
Biopolymer & Fiber research Institute employee weighing cotton and visually analyzing the sample.

Victim to a fashion industry that prioritized quantity over quality, what was once held in such high esteem is now seen as trivial to most consumers. Imitated, an imposter yet a successor: cotton has a copy.

ack in the late 90s and early 2000s the cotton industry started to feel the impact of synthetic materials. With a declining trend in cotton consumption came a multitude of concerns for not just farmers, but for the consumer as well.
“Balance between man-made fibers verses natural fibers, like cotton, is a very delicate balance,” commented Shawn Wade, director of policy analysis and research for Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Cotton’s Observation

The cotton lint industry has been working tirelessly to change its public perception. It could not wait for research and innovation to take over, updating the natural fiber to modern day society. Tired of public scrutiny on the World Trade Organization’s ruling, cotton used to be king. What this natural fiber was asked to compete with was something that was not even biological. Cotton was anything but meek; cotton had proved tried and true and a reliable staple.

Polyester is a category of polymers that has been defined as long-chain polymers, which is chemically composed of at least 85% by weight of ester and a dihydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid. A few characteristics of polyester would include but is not limited to: an extremely strong and durable fabric, mildew and abrasion resistant, wrinkle resistant and it is quick drying.

In a world trend report over world textile demand, the International Cotton Advisory Committee found that cotton demand in 2010 was 1.7 million tons lower than in 2007. Compared to other traditional fibers, cotton was drastically higher than the other fibers monitored.

“Balance between man-made fibers verses natural fibers, like cotton, is a very delicate balance.”

When comparing cotton and synthetics, there are pros and cons on each side. One is environmentally friendly, but the other is cost effective. With cost playing a huge factor in this equation, China has built a capacity for synthetic fibers. With manmade fibers being highly subsidized, they are prone to overproduce at a high rate. This puts a textile out on the market at a lower price than a comparable, higher quality product.

“The quality and the different parameters of synthetics are much more even running. They are manmade, and so they can be much more perfect. Cotton is a natural fiber. There is nothing perfect about it,” said Steve Verett, vice president of Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Environmental Awareness

Though cotton may not be perfect, there is research to support why it is sustainably a better option.

“Already, they’re finding that the particles that are coming off in the wash from these knitted performance fabrics are all ending up in the wastewater and they’re finding them very harmful to aquaculture,” said Verett. “Those particles never go away. They are there forever, and maybe not forever but they’ve got the half-life of Uranium, whereas cotton is biodegradable.”

Consumer Perceptions

Verett commented that one thing that amazed him was the consumer interest in where their food is being sourced and how it is being treated but they are not necessarily concerned with there they clothes are being made or how it impacts the economy and environment.

“They don’t even think to consider and ask those same questions about the clothes they wear; that they’re more than willing to wear clothes made out of – who knows – gasoline, and somehow see that as being sustainable,” declared Verett as he passionately spoke out of concern for the public.

Wade said the polyester clothing trend is now nearly synonymous with the 60s. Not one garment was breathable, carried
a decent scent by the end of the day, or was practical in terms of outdoor nor body temperature to wear daily. By gaining market share due to polyesters ease of care, there was a market for working women who wanted an outfit that could handle her long workday and still be able to maintain a cosmopolitan societal image. What those women may not have realized was they could have been wearing, instead, something that would have kept them cooler and more comfortable.

Correcting the Pendulum

One reason why polyester is attractive is because it is easy to care for. No wrinkles and you can throw the garment in a bag and go.

“When Cotton Incorporated came along they were able to take that away…[Polyester companies] were able to take a lot of that back because they did a few things. That’s when we first started doing permanent press cotton or you know wrinkle free cotton,” said Verett.

Verett described the challenges synthetic fibers pose to cotton lint as a pendulum.

“I’ve lived long enough to see, it’s like a pendulum,” he said. “Things tend to kind of correct and sometimes they overcorrect and that’s kind of what’s happened with this deal now. It’s kind of overcorrected.”

While the pendulum has been overcorrected, Verett and Wade both agreed the synthetic industry has done a good job of marketing their product.

“They’ve done a heck of a job in marketing with logos and things that 6-and 7-year-old kids are wearing. They don’t need performance fabrics. But that’s the cool thing. That’s what all their sports heroes are wearing. And, so even though it feels bad, and it may not be that great but that’s the deal,” claimed Verett.

Although cotton has a copy, Verett and Wade believe the lint product is headed toward the center of the pendulum.

History might correct itself but that is for the economy to decide. Cotton or synthetics? That is for you to choose. Check out the fiber facts before selecting your next garment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For The Love of Farming

Although the market is not always in the farmer's favor, Braden loves what he does every day.
Although the market is not always in the farmer's favor, Braden loves what he does every day.

After graduating from Texas Tech in 2009, Braden Gruhlkey had to make a tough choice: would he be an ag teacher, or would he pursue the difficult and risky lifestyle of being a farmer?

How It All Began

Braden and his two younger brothers, Brittan and Cameron, grew up on a farm in Wildorado, Texas, just west of Amarillo. Growing up on the farm with his dad and brothers, Braden said he never felt like he was just a helper. His dad made him and his brothers feel like one day, the farmland would be theirs if they wanted it—and they did want it. Today, Braden farms in the Wildorado, Center Point, Hartley and Dalhart areas.

While student teaching in college, Braden realized very quickly that education was not the career path he wanted to follow. Actually, from an early age, he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and keep the farming tradition alive. Together with his brothers, they scraped up what money they had saved, and with some help from their parents, bought their first farm while Braden was a sophomore in college.

“I always knew I wanted to farm so I probably wasn’t going to use my degree,” Braden said, “but I thought it might be a good idea to have something to fall back on if anything happened.”

Tradition Continues

Braden said working in the agricultural industry is a tough job that not everyone is cut out to do. When it comes to farming, it is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job with free weekends and paid vacation days. He said during harvest season, for a month, he will not get home until 11 p.m. or later every night.

“You think it’s going to slow down, and it doesn’t,” Braden said. “You just have to keep on going.”

Braden’s lifestyle is not easy work or an easy profit, and although farming is his passion, he said he is in the business to make money and provide for his family. Braden grows corn, cotton, wheat, seed milo, commercial milo and sorghum silage on his farms, but corn and cotton are his main crops.

Growing corn as one of his main crops, Braden decided to run for the Texas Corn Producers Board and has been a part of the organization for about a year. He said he did this because he wanted to learn more about ag policy, the organization’s educational efforts, and any issues that may affect him as a corn farmer.

Stephanie Pruitt, communications director for TCPB, said the organization works to make sure young farmers like Braden have the programs and resources, like the checkoff board, they need to be able to go back to the farm.

“The Gruhlkey brothers have really pushed the conservation envelope on their farms to make sure they’re making the land and their resources last for future generations,” Pruitt said.

A Family Affair

Upon graduating from college, Braden met his wife, Lauren, at a church event in Amarillo. After one year of dating, Braden and Lauren got married. Today, they live in Amarillo, have two young boys and are expecting twins in April. Lauren is a stay-at-home mom and stays plenty busy keeping up with the kids and Braden. Braden said having only one income can be difficult at times, but this is the life he and his wife have always wanted.

“We worry about how we are going to make this work, but God takes care of us,” he said. “Because what do you know? We’ve made it work.”

Braden grows six different crops on his farms.

Farming is not only hard on the farmer alone. It demands continuous patience and support from the family back at home. Each day is a new day often requiring a full 15 hours of hard, physical labor. Braden said his wife sacrifices a lot while staying at home with their children while he works.

“I don’t know a whole lot of women who would deal with this lifestyle,” he said. “I am blessed to have her, that’s for sure.”

The three Gruhlkey brothers are all married with children and work on the farm together almost every day. Braden said when they began farming, the brothers decided they would be more successful together than apart—and the partnership has worked in their favor thus far. Working with family on a daily basis has its challenges, but Braden said it is nice to have his brothers around when he has questions or needs advice. Braden said he and his brothers are very transparent and honest with each other and that is what makes their partnership work.

“My brothers are pretty much my best friends and that makes it work,” he said. “We’ve always gotten along.”

Brittan Gruhlkey, who is the middle brother, said going back to the farm was always his goal and he would not change his life for anything else. Brittan said growing up on the farm with his brothers taught them hard work and work ethic. Like his older brother, Braden, Brittan knew he would farm after college, despite knowing the risks and hard work it would require.

We worry about how we are going to make this work, but God takes care of us. Braden Gruhlkey

Brittan said fewer people are returning to the farm because of these risks, but without taking risks, there are no rewards.

“It’s a different type of work that a lot of people are not willing to do,” Brittan said. “The amount of time and effort and risk it takes to farm is a lot.”

Braden said their father, Bill, has had a big impact on his life on and off the farm. Besides sparking his interest in farming, Braden said his dad taught he and his brothers work ethic, honesty and how to do things around the farm.

“We’ve learned a ton from Dad about everything to do with farming—planting, irrigating, and just the whole aspect of it all,” he said. “He was always good at telling us why he did this and why he didn’t do that, and we always listened.”

During planting and harvesting season, Braden said he and his brothers come together to help each other and their dad on their farms. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into being a farmer, but Braden Gruhlkey has proven that if you love what you do and have a supportive family by your side, being a farmer is pretty darn great.

“It’s not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, but I think that in the end, we’re going to be all right.”

Sowing the Seeds of the Future

Producers look on during Farmers Cooperative Compress' tour of its cotton warehouses.
Producers look on during Farmers Cooperative Compress' tour of its cotton warehouses.

It all started with farmers. Farmers who were searching for stability in an uncertain cotton market and thirsting for the knowledge to run their operations more efficiently. It started with farmers wanting to have the courage to start all over “come planting time” and sow the small cotton seeds that would largely determine their future. It started with farmers recognizing that in order for the cotton industry to survive, it has to be passed on to the next generation.

Cooperatives all started with farmers. Likewise, the Cooperative Producer Orientation, hosted by Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, Farmers Cooperative Compress and PYCO Industries Inc., started because of the need to educate High Plains cotton farmers on the regional cotton cooperative system headquartered in Lubbock, Texas.

Cooperatives, whether ginning, marketing, warehousing, or cottonseed processing, enable cotton growers to keep their farming operations stable even when the volatile market, like a wolf at the door, threatens to devour their life’s work in seconds. To do so, any profit each cooperative makes is returned to its grower-owners in the form of monetary dividends.

Lincoln Devault, an orientation attendee and 2015 agricultural economics graduate of Texas Tech, commented on the importance of the dividends cooperatives provide farmers.

“If you don’t have a profit, a lot of these farmers aren’t going to be able to make it, so that is pretty important,” Devault said.

The annual orientation featured 46 farmers and their spouses from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico. The attendees were educated on each phase of the cooperative system, or level of the supply chain as industry leaders call it, and how the legacy of farming is preserved in each. In doing so, the regional cotton cooperatives in Lubbock continually sow the seeds of the future by educating their grower and gin owners.

Devault said he is currently keeping his family’s near 100-year tradition of farming going with help from cooperatives.

“Pretty much my whole life I wanted to come back and farm on the family farm,” Devault said. “The No. 1 important thing for us is to be able to market our cotton at the highest price possible, and the only way for us to do that is to stick together in coops.”

The 2017 Cooperative Producer Orientation featured the largest number of attendees since the program’s creation.

Working Toward a Common Goal at PCCA

The theme of “sticking together” is how Plains Cotton Cooperative Association began the orientation event. The marketing cooperative provided an overview of its rich history, services, and marketing strategies that blend together to help producers get the best possible price for their cotton. The cooperative, which is one of the largest cotton marketing organizations in the world, was founded in 1953 by producers across the High Plains of Texas and has since led the industry in innovation and service. PCCA currently serves an estimated 9,000 grower-owners across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Devault said PCCA’s presentation began with an explanation of the value of being a coop member.

“The first thing they did was go into the benefits of being part of the coop,” he said, “which is how a group of farmers that are like-minded come together and work toward one common goal, which is putting more money back into the farmer’s pocket.”

It is time for this younger generation to start taking over the reins and learning how our industry works and what it takes to keep it going. Lincoln Devault

Harvesting Profit at FCC

Following the presentation from PCCA, attendees had a working lunch at Farmers Cooperative Compress. The warehousing regional cooperative followed suit with its presentation and provided an overview of its history, services, and even included a tour of its cotton warehouses. In 1948, producers came together to resolve the issue of cotton storage on the High Plains, thus creating Farmer Cooperative Compress. Today, the cooperative has 208 warehouses, 7,000 members, and a USDA licensed capacity to store over 2.2 million bales of cotton. The cooperative recently celebrated a milestone in returning $1 billion back in dividends to its members since its establishment.

Orientation attendees also were provided a tour through the cotton warehouses, which were full of cotton bales from the 2016-2017 cotton crop’s unexpectedly high yields.

Travis McCallister, a new cotton farmer and 2014 Texas Tech agricultural economics masters graduate, said it was very educational to view the operations at Farmers Cooperative Compress.

“My favorite thing about going to the compress was going out in the warehouses and getting to see the production of how they move cotton in and cotton bales out and ship those,” McCallister said. “It was really interesting to see the production of it all.”

After a brief question and answer session in the cotton warehouses at Farmers Cooperative Compress, attendees traveled to PYCO Industries Inc.

Extracting Value at PYCO

PYCO Industries Inc., shared its history and an overview of its services and procedures prior to the tour of its facilities. The oil mill, which was established in 1936, is the oldest of the regional cotton cooperatives in Lubbock and is the largest cottonseed cooperative in the southern United States. The cooperative is also owned by cotton gins, rather than cotton growers like PCCA and Farmers Cooperative Compress.

PYCO Industries Inc. currently serves 60 member-gins and processes cottonseed from those gins to extract and refine cottonseed oil for cooking in various forms, as well as cottonseed byproducts, including cottonseed meal, hulls, and linters.

Cooperative Producer Orientation attendees had the opportunity to take a walking tour through the oil mill facilities to see every part of the operation possible, including real examples of the products and byproducts that result from processing the seed.

Devault noted the tour of PYCO Industries Inc., and its complex operations served as a valuable learning experience.

“A cotton plant is one of the most diverse plants as far as the amount of products that can come out of it,” he said. “It was really interesting to see how they develop all the different products that they sell and what they are used for.”

The tour of PYCO Industries Inc., concluded the 2017 Cooperative Producer Orientation.

Orientation attendees took a walking tour through the facilities at PYCO Industries, Inc.


Devault and McCallister, both young producers, cooperative members, and former Red Raiders, said their takeaways from the event were second to none.
“I now have a vested interest in not only the cotton I grow here, but also getting it to the consumer in the cheapest way, and that turns me back more money,” McCallister said. “It allows my operation to have a wider reach than what it would if I was just taking it to the gin and selling it and if I didn’t have anything invested in it further down the supply chain.”

Devault echoed McCallister’s comments.

“Anytime you get a chance to visit a coop that you are a part of or that you are thinking about going into, you should jump on it,” Devault said. “You are going to learn something, and the more young farmers my age can get out and see what these coops are about the better it is going to be. It is time for this younger generation to start taking over the reins and learning how our industry works and what it takes to keep it going.”

Cotton is King

Here. in West Texas cotton is king. Even though cotton produced isn’t all year round, the students and staff at the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute work year round to improve cotton producers and consumers.

One of the premier institutes of the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University is the FBRI. FBRI is equipped and staffed to conduct research and development testing ranging from small-scale testing through large-scale manufacturing. Their goal is to change the way the world talks about fiber quality.

A key objective is to foster greater use of the natural fibers and increase manufacturing of Texas cotton.

“Our efforts to enhance the economic value of cotton as an industrial raw material have increasingly involved research at the structural and molecular levels,” said Dean Ethridge, professor and managing director of Texas Tech’s FBRI. “Cotton is an iconic example of a biopolymer. We believe the decisive technological advances of the future will come from such research.”

The focus of FBRI is testing and researching cotton by working with its chemistry of cotton to test the fibers and transform it to yarn. Working with dyeing crops and finishing special yarn and fabric treatments is one of the main objectives. They work with farmers and seed companies to develop new genotype types and gain ideas for new test and research.

“This institute has long had the mission of being the leader in research, education, and development to enhance the use value of cotton,” said Noureddine Abidi, Ph. D., associate professor and associate director of FBRI.

FBRI is located on the east 19th Street exit on East Loop 289 in Lubbock. With 30 acres of land and a building with 100,000 square feet of air-conditioned space, it has 12,000 square feet of laboratories that are specialized with machines and instruments for research.

The FBRI facility has recently upsized its Materials Evaluation Laboratory and is creating the new Biopolymer Research Laboratory. The BRL is fundamental to the institute’s longstanding mission to add value to natural fibers produced in Texas and part of a growing collaboration with plant breeders, geneticists and biotechnologists. The new building will help FBRI increase its research projects.

The knowledge gleaned in the new FBRI building is verified and augmented by the Cotton Phenpmies and Yarn Spinning laboratories. These laboratories are some of the main laboratories at FBRI. The Cotton Phenomics Laboratory provides in depth physical testing and evaluation for fibers, yarns and fabrics.

Besides being essential for the research program at the institute, the new laboratory is indispensible for serving the testing needs of plant breeders, cotton merchants, textile manufacturers, yarn and fabric importers, and waste fiber and linter suppliers. For fibers, measurements are made both on central tendencies and on distributions. The spinning laboratory contains a ring spinning, compact spinning, and open-end rotor spinning machinery.  All required facilitating processes opening, blending, cleaning, carding, combing, drawing, roving, winding, twisting, and plying support these machines.

A new trash and dust handling system ensures constant levels of air pressures and flows, which increases reliability of spinning trials.  Besides enabling observation and documentation of spinning performance, yarns are delivered back to the Materials Evaluation Laboratory for any needed quality measurement.

FBRI is used by many different colleges within Texas Tech University, such as the college of engineering, agricultural sciences and natural resources, and human sciences for advanced degree programs and special courses as well. The institute consists of interdisciplinary faculty with doctorates degrees in chemistry, fiber technology, molecular biology, and agricultural economics.

“Working with grand students, Ph. D. students, interns, and internationally students help this institute grow not only in Lubbock but all over the world,” Abidi said.

Several graduate level courses are taught through the Department of Plant and Soil Science and the Department of Industrial Engineering. Professional education includes the Texas International Cotton School, as well as short courses, conferences, seminars and special tours.

Scholars from throughout the world conduct postgraduate research at this center. More than 4,000 people visit annually to see the research and testing done by these students and staff at FBRI.

The objective of FBRI is to foster greater use of the natural fibers and increase textile manufacturing in Texas. FBRI works with cotton from all over Texas but the main source of cotton tested is from the West Texas region.

“Cotton is the king in West Texas, so our job here is to do research and testing and make sure cotton remains the king of West Texas,” said Abidi.

Texas accounts for 60 percent of the U.S. cotton acreage, and West Texas makes up for over half of that. Having FBRI in West Texas helps farmers get a better understanding of the strength of their cotton and how the testing and research is done first hand.

“Over the last 10 years, West Texas cotton has experienced a dramatic transformation through new transgenic cotton varieties and advanced technology, but collaborative research was what helped bring the regional and national cotton industries to greener pastures,” said Ethridge.

As the world population is expected to double by 2050, farmers and ranchers are rapidly trying to feed and clothe our world’s population. With the help of FBRI, cotton producers will be able to do their part by keeping their industry up to the task of pleasing consumers and putting clothes on their backs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Lifetime of Cotton

Dan Taylor at the Bayer Museum of Agriculture

Standing just outside of his barn, below the scarlet red Texas Tech Double T that faces County Road 1240, Dan Taylor stares at his collection of tractors, a chuck wagon and a lifetime of memories hung up on his walls.

Taylor said, “Green sure is a pretty color on a tractor but that red one, that’s where it all began for us.”

An alumnus of Texas Tech University and the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, Dan started his journey as a cotton farmer almost 51 years ago in Lubbock, Texas. As a junior in high school, Dan was asked about what his future-plans were after graduation and though he knew that he wanted to pursue a degree in higher education, he never thought it would lead him back to farming cotton.

Taylor grew up on a cotton farm around the Fort Worth Area and at the time he wanted to get as far away from the cotton farming industry as he could.

Nonetheless, Taylor’s answer was always, “I’m not going to farm, and I will not do anything cotton related.”

Little did he know, the good Lord had different plans in store for him. Dan then spent the next few years of his life pursuing that degree and pursuing his now wife, Linda, who is also a Texas Tech graduate. Linda had her own ties into the agriculture industry through her family’s small livestock operation around the Austin, Texas area. Although Linda grew up around the industry, she did not receive her degree in agriculture, instead a degree in business management.

Dan and Linda married shortly after graduation from Texas Tech with a degree in interdisciplinary agriculture, Taylor acquired a job as an agriculture teacher at Lubbock-Cooper High School where he taught several young men and women the ins and outs of parliamentary procedure and meat judging, and he eventually started a school ag farm where they were able to grow cotton and show the students the process of the cotton growing business.

            In 1975, after 11 years of teaching, Taylor made the decision to step away from the classroom and pursue other dreams he had for himself and his family.

“I decided to quit teaching because my kids were getting up in age and I wanted to be able to spend more time with them. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make but if I had to go back and do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Dan Taylor, Cotton Farmer

That same year the Taylor’s came upon an opportunity that allowed them to blend all the many aspects of their lives together. Taylor could still teach the consumers, produce his cotton and watch his three children grow as well.

Taylor said, “I loved teaching, I still do and that’s the best part about this industry, I still get to interact with the public and teach them about the practices of farmers across the U.S. There are many similarities between the two professions and more than anything we simply provide information to the public.”

It was not long before the Taylor’s were purchasing Buster’s Cotton Gin in Ropesville, Texas and just like that, they were wrapped up in the cotton ginning world and spending their days living out their dream.

 “The best part about owning that old cotton gin was being able to gather around and drink coffee with those who came to our gin religiously,” Taylor said.

With his degree, 11 years of teaching, cotton farming and ginning, Taylor has had a lifetime of cotton come in and out of his home and it has now lead him to becoming the president of the Bayer Museum of Agriculture just east of downtown Lubbock. Taylor has dedicated the last few years of his life to not only farming his cotton but also spending many days and nights planning, fundraising and giving back to the community through the museum of agriculture along with several others.

            “When we were first approached about the museum it was only but a thought and for a while, we were housed in a warehouse, now we look around and see all of our hard work come to life and I think that is my favorite part about it,” Taylor said.

Taylor walks through the museum and easily knows every detail about every piece of equipment or artifact in the museum. The Bayer Museum of Agriculture opened its doors in April of 2012 with the intent to feature all sorts of machinery for planting and harvesting crops.

Alton Brazell, a farm equipment collector, was for the most part the mastermind behind all of the machinery because he had collected most of them himself for many years and they decided it needed to be out in a museum for everyone to admire.

Almost five years later, the museum features a cotton stripper simulation machine that allows you to strip your own cotton in three minutes, a section of crops grown on the south plains and all the facts about them, and several other agricultural processes such as drilling for water wells. In addition to being able to learn about crop production, the museum also rents out their facilities for wedding receptions, luncheons and many more events where people can gather and enjoy the museum. As the president of the museum, Taylor spends most days ensuring that all things run smoothly for visitors and those who wish to learn about agriculture in West Texas.

The Taylor’s are also scholarship donors for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech. Many students in CASNR have said that they owe their education to the Taylor’s generosity.

Jessica Corder a Graduate Research Assistant from the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications and a Dan and Linda Taylor Endowed Scholarship recipient said,

“It never ceases to amaze me how generous CASNR is to their students. This college is by far the most awarded students when it comes to scholarships. None of it would be possible without the amazing and giving donors that support the college every year, like Dan and Linda Taylor. During my undergraduate career, I had the fortune of benefiting from Dan and Linda Taylor via scholarship. Their generosity and genuine interest they showed into the lives of every student they supported was encouraging. I am so thankful for their kindness, and know that one day, I want to show the kindness that the Taylors showed me in helping me achieve my education to other students in CASNR at TTU.”

The Dan and Linda Taylor Endowed Scholarship was established by the Taylor’s in 1993 and is a scholarship for any incoming freshman majoring in any degree within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

For the last two centuries, cotton production and ginning in Texas has proven to be a major player in the United States cotton industry in producing 25% of the cotton in the U.S., somewhere along the way, Dan Taylor was thrown into the mix and has made all the difference.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mothers, Daughters, and Wives of Farmers

As a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother of farmers, Dean Huffaker has her fair share of experiences. “We had one little irrigation well, and we had to water through ditches,” said Dean Huffaker as she recalled a lifetime of farming that had not been talked about in years. Over the years, she has seen many changes in farming, but one thing that has not changed is the families themselves.

Where it all started

As Dean began to think back, she explained that her parents gathered maize with knives and threw the maize into a wagon where Dean and her brother would stack it.

“No one today could have realized what we were using for equipment,” said Dean.

We would have to cook for the workers who gathered the broomcorn, said Dean as she continued to remember all of the things that her and her mother did for her father’s farm. Growing up in farming, it was a natural transition when Dean married a farmer she met at Texas Tech. They started out with little, but they made it work.

“We were newlyweds and it didn’t matter.  We farmed with borrowed equipment and $1,500 we borrowed from the bank.”

When Dean and her late husband, Donald, started farming, they had 80 acres, a $1,500 farm loan, and borrowed two-row equipment. They watered with ditches, and the best method for stopping the water in a broken ditch, according to Dean, was to stand in it while her husband threw dirt around her feet.

“Everything has changed so much,” said Dean.

Over the years, Dean and Donald acquired more land and equipment and continued to grow their farming operation. Eventually, Dean’s husband bought out her father and continued working the land with his son. Today, her grandson runs most of the farm. Dean said that there is a clear reason why the farm was continually passed down.

“Its in his blood,” she said.

We farmed with borrowed equipment and $1,500 we
borrowed from the bank. Dean Huffaker

Where they are today

Dean is not the only one who believes that. Dena Huffaker is Dean’s granddaughter in-law. Dena said her husband would always farm.

“It’s in his blood, and he will never sell any of this,” said Dena.

While this has stayed the same, times have changed.

“Everything has changed,” said Dena. “The prices of equipment, the practices, and all technology have changed.“

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have pivots. We had ditches and pipe that had to be laid. We also had lots of water, and that has changed a lot. Now we have gone from ditches, to metal pipe, to poly pipe, to pivots. And that’s not to mention drip irrigation.”

Dena married into the Huffaker family in 1999 and was also raised on a farm. Growing up, she can remember the three-seated sprayer they used to spray the crops. When she got married, they had a slightly larger sprayer with only one seat and pedals you steered with. Now, they use a giant spray rig with sensors and GPS.

“Pretty much all of our machines have GPS,” said Dena.

The Huffaker’s have seen commodity prices change through the years as well.

“Labor cost, employee taxes, and seed have gone through the roof,” said Dena. “Today, you get a $50,000 bill and that is just for one month.”

As Dena thought about Dean’s stories, she laughed at the initial loan that started the family farm.

“That wouldn’t even cover a bag of seed,” said Dena with a smile. “Today the loans are more like $800,000 for some people.”

She acknowledged that some people think the trick is to get more land, but she believes it is all about how you manage it.

What has not changed

One thing has not changed, and that is what it takes to be a farming family. Both Dean and Dena shared stories about supporting their farmers.

“You just have to really be there for each other,” said Dena. “That’s why God made a man and a woman.”

Dean said you had to be a certain kind of woman to be a farmer’s wife. She talked about the schedule that goes with farming and the responsibilities to children and family that were required to keep everyone where they needed to be.

“Its not always an easy life, said Dean. “You don’t have income coming in regularly and not until the end of the year many times. Other times not even then.”

Dena said faith was the key.

“We always just fight for it and have been very blessed to have made it through when a lot of people didn’t,” she said.

Dena and Dean both kept the books for their husbands and continue to support their farms in any way that they can. Dena has two children and her oldest son helps on the farm during the summer.

When asked if he would farm, Dena responded,

“I don’t thing that he will, but it’s in his blood.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Go to Top