“Both my grandfather and father grew cotton, so I grew up in a cotton environment. Dad and my uncle also grew some soybeans, but cotton was the main crop. We got out of beans in 1984, and sold our combine and traded a couple of old two-row pickers for a John Deere 9910. We’ve had no grains since then.

“I just don’t have enough acres to plant enough beans to justify owning a combine. Too, I know cotton and like growing it — year-in, year-out, it has been the crop that paid the bills.”

About 110 acres of the cotton is on or near the family home place, the rest is rented land along Hwy. 314 going toward Sardis Lake.

“Altogether, I farm about 60 fields, some as small as three acres or less,” Randy says. “But, they’re pretty much in two contiguous groups, so it makes equipment movement fairly easy. About 75 percent of the land is within a two-mile area along Hwy. 314, about seven or eight miles from my shop, and the rest is here around our home place. I’m blessed to have good creek bottom land over most of my operation, with mostly loamy sandy soil.”

They also own 300-acres plus of pastureland, which they rent to neighbors. “We had cows until about 1983,” Randy says, “but sold out when prices were high. After three of four years, we got back in, but sold out again in 1990 when we had a disastrous crop year.

“Occasionally, I think about getting back in, but then [he laughs] I remember having to go out and look after cows on cold, rainy, nasty winter days, and the thought pretty quickly goes away. As long as I’ve got enough cotton land to keep me busy, we’ll probably continue to rent the pastureland.”

For the last seven or eight years, all of Randy’s cotton has been no-till. “No-till has been a salvation for us,” he says. “It allowed us to reduce labor and fuel costs, to use less equipment, and to generally hold the line on costs in years when cotton prices were low. About the only way we could survive was to cut input costs.”

Going into mid-August, he says, his cotton has done well. “I’ve been lucky enough to get enough rains close enough together to keep it going. That’s another thing about no-till: cotton seems to hold up better on no-till ground during hot, dry weather than on land that’s been tilled. It seems to be less stressed and to grow more lushly. Cotton will start off faster on tilled ground, but then no-till catches up and seems to hold up better through the season.”

He started planting this year’s crop the middle of May, but got a wet, cold spell, with 40-degree nights — “about as bad a combination as you could ask for.

“I had to replant some of that cotton. In hindsight, I’d have been better off to have waited to plant everything later; the cotton that I planted after the cold spell grew off better than what I’d planted early. But, sometimes the weather just throws you a curve.”

About 60 percent of his acreage is Phytogen 375 WRF and the rest is Stoneville 4288 B2RF. Last year was the first time he’d planted those varieties and they both performed really well, he says.

“I try and put the Stoneville variety in the creek bottoms, because it tends to be more compact and I don’t have to use as much Pix to keep it from getting rank. I’ll probably apply 10 to 12 ounces of Pix on it, compared to 22 to 24 ounces on the Phytogen variety.”

Yields last year ranged from 700 pounds to 1,000 pounds, depending on location, rainfall, etc. “I averaged about a bale and a half, and hope to do that well, or better this time.”