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The 2013 winners – Johnny Little, Holcomb, Miss.; Linwood Vick, Wilson, N.C.; John Wilde, San Angelo, Texas; and Chad Crivelli, Dos Palos, Calif. – have continued the High Cotton Award traditions of growing good, profitable cotton in an environmentally friendly manner. And they’ve done it despite a less than favorable price outlook, excessive moisture in some areas and drought conditions in others and rising input costs.
Ironically, growing cotton was one of Linwood Vick’s least favorite things when this year’s Southeast winner returned to the family farm after graduating from the North Carolina State Agriculture Institute in 1997.
“We had a big problem with soil erosion,” Vick says. “Early in the growing season especially, our conventional cotton was literally sandblasted by our fine, sandy soils. When Roundup Ready cotton came along, we switched to no-till cotton, soybeans, double-crop soybeans, and wheat.
“Our tobacco and sweet potatoes are grown with conventional tillage, so going no-till on cotton and soybeans helped improve the tilth of our soil and helped with those erosion problems.”
He rotates his cotton with sweet potatoes, tobacco and soybeans. Having sweet potatoes and tobacco in the rotation is a bit unusual, but he says it has been a blessing in battling glyphosate-resistant pigweed.
The unusual cotton rotation also aids in suppression of nematodes. Most of their tobacco and sweet potato land is treated with Telone and Lorsban, so they are carrying out practices as a part of their normal farming operation that gives a side benefit of reducing nematode populations.
Both sweet potatoes and tobacco are labor-intensive crops, and Vick Farms is a pioneer in using legal, H2A labor. “Having adequate labor on hand for these crops can be a big advantage in our cotton operation,” Lyn says. “If we get in a situation where we can’t get in a field with the right herbicide, we can always use some of our labor to clean up those fields.”
Each member of the Vick family speaks Spanish. The farm has 10 full-time employees, and all but two speak Spanish.
“It’s a tool that’s important in our farming operation,” he says. “Whether or not I’m fluent in Spanish, I don’t know, but I can explain to any of our H2A workers what I want them to do and how I want them to do it. Lack of communication should never be an excuse on our farm for not getting things done right.”