In most years, on a few of the fields he farms here in the northeast corner of Mississippi, just a hop, skip, and jump from the Alabama state line, Tommy Moody will plant corn for the rotation benefit it brings to cotton the following year.

Not this time: “It’s wall-to-wall cotton,” he says. “Farming dryland, and with prices as they are, the returns potential for cotton was better than for corn.”

He has already price-fixed about 35 percent of his cotton through his gin on mill-direct contracts ranging from $1.02 to $1.42, and hopes $1-plus prices will still be available for the rest of the crop at harvest time.

Moody, who grew up here in the small town of Belmont, in Tishomingo County, didn’t come from a farming family, and didn’t start out to be a farmer.

“After I finished high school, I went to Northeast Mississippi Community College,” he says. “The Vietnam War was going on and I was in the National Guard and doing carpentry work. My uncle, who was a full-time farmer, asked me to help him and I discovered that farming was something I really liked — being independent and seeing the results of your work growing in the fields and in the harvest at the end of the season. In 1978, I bought him out, and I’ve been farming on my own ever since.”

In the 1950s and early 1960s, his uncle had grown cotton, but in the late ‘60s got out because insects — bollworms/budworms and boll weevils — were making it almost impossible to grow a decent crop. So, his uncle switched to soybeans instead.

“When I started farming on my own, I grew soybeans and some corn for 10 or 12 years,” Moody says. “In 1991, I started easing back into cotton — only 100 acres — and kept gradually increasing until, by 1998, I was all cotton.

“I rotate corn on a few of the bottomland fields that are suitable, but year-in, year-out the bulk of the acreage is cotton. This year, with prices the way they’ve been, I’m wall-to-wall cotton.”

Today, Moody is one of only three cotton growers in the county, and has something over a third of the total acreage.

To the west, most of the land is hills, covered in trees; to the east, across the Alabama line, more woods. But, centered around Belmont, in creek valleys, is the silt loam land that Moody and other growers farm.