Jan Hill and his son, Jason, work more than 5,000 acres of row crops, pasture/cows, and timber encompassing more than 50 farms and many dozens of fields stretched out across 20 miles of three counties in north central Mississippi.

But, says Jan, the fourth generation of his family to farm the bottomlands that weave through wooded hillsides, “If I could grow just one crop, it would be cotton.

“I love cotton. Always have. It’s more challenging, takes more management, and is more expensive to grow than corn or soybeans — but it’s the crop that has kept us in business over the years. Cotton has paid for just about everything we’ve got.

“I can remember selling cotton for as little as 25 cents a pound, and could never have dreamed we’d be seeing the prices we have now. Last year, I started booking at 90 cents and the last I sold was at $1.17. I averaged about $1.03, which was an all-time record for me. I’ve already booked some of this year’s crop at $1.17.

“Over the years, I’ve had as much as 1,800 acres of cotton and recently, as little as 700 acres. This year, we’ve cut back some on corn in order to boost cotton, and will have about 1,250 acres.”

A lot of growers who got out of cotton in recent years haven’t gone back, Jan says.

“It’s not cheap to switch crops nowadays, particularly if you don’t have cotton equipment any more. With Bt and Roundup Ready technology, cotton is an easier crop to grow than in the earlier days, but it still requires more management — and a larger investment — than corn or soybeans, and a lot of farmers just don’t want to make that kind of commitment.

“Even with $1 cotton, it’s a big step to buy a half-million-dollar picker. We’ve got two Case IH 2555 four-row pickers; they’re not the latest and greatest, but (he laughs) they’re paid for — and that’s a mighty good feeling.”

They started planting cotton May 6, which Jan says was a bit later than normal.

“We like to start about April 25, but it was just too wet and cold this year. One of the best cotton crops I ever made was planted late, so I’m hoping this year will be another like that.

“We plant mostly Deltapine varieties; this year, we’ll have some 0912 B2RF, which has yielded well for us, along with some 1028 B2RF, 1034 B2RF, and some Phytogen 375, which was mighty good to us last year.

“Year-in, year-out, we’ll average about 800 pounds. Most of the acreage is dryland, though in the last few years I’ve started furrow irrigating some fields from ponds.