Johnny Little farms 1,175 acres of cotton and 350 acres of corn near Holcomb, Miss. According to Bayer CropScience’s Steve McPeek, who nominated Little for the High Cotton award, “One thing that sets Johnny apart is that he is willing to try new things and think outside the box to address problems on his farm. He is willing to adapt to changes in production and the market.”
JOHNNY LITTLE enjoys producing cotton, but it’s getting tougher with high input costs and low cotton prices relative to grains.
The farm hasn’t had glyphosate-resistant pigweed yet, but he isn’t taking any chances.
“I’m scared to death it’s coming,” he says. “I haven’t started applying residuals in the fall yet, but I pretty early in the spring I apply Valor and Roundup, and that usually holds it. Sometimes, I’ve had to go back between then and planting with another shot of Roundup. I’m also using Warrant and diuron at layby.
Resistant weeds have the potential to add new meaning to his father’s old adage, “Pray for a good harvest — but continue to hoe.
“We’ve sprayed the ditches and everywhere this year to try and deter resistant weeds,” Little says. “But we haven’t had to do any chopping yet.”
He is a stickler for using brand names and appropriate rates of pesticides, which he believes is tied to good stewardship.
“With brands, you know you’re getting what you pay for. I feel a lot of glyphosate resistance has been caused by cutting rates. I believe that whatever is supposed to be applied needs to be applied.”
That goes for insecticides, too. “Whatever my consultant, Ty Edwards, recommends for plant bugs is what I apply. I make sure my machinery is in good shape and calibrated to apply the correct rate.”
Little gins his cotton at Vaiden Gin, Vaiden, Miss., and markets with Sam Gullette, Gullette Cotton Co., at Greenwood, Miss.
“I make the calls. Sometimes, I do well and other times, like this year, I don’t. But that’s farming.”
Occasionally, a resident of Holcomb will stop Little on the street and recount how his father, “Mr. Buddy,” as he was known locally, had “taught me how to work.” For both Johnny and his father, that character trait is more than time spent on a tractor seat.
For his father, it meant coming back to the farm at 30 years of age after his own father had died, to run the farm and take care of his younger brothers and sisters.
For Johnny, it meant having to quit playing baseball at age 11 to work the cotton harvest. Or perhaps, it meant never having the time to capitalize on his singing talent.
And he can sing: In fact, he has a bachelor of music from Delta State University, where he sang with the vocal and instrumental ensemble Renaissance. Today, he sings in church and whenever else he feels the urge.
“I can sing just anything that has a heartfelt melody to it,” he says.
If he were to put his life into a song, the words would probably temper the sting of a low cotton price with the excitement of surging yield monitor readings — or the sacrifice required to work the land with the joy of doing something you love to do. The title?
“That’s Farming” has a nice ring to it, he says.