Charles Coghlan, Benoit, Miss., and Sledge Taylor III, Como, Miss., were honored as Mississippi's 2004 Farmers of the Year in the annual recognition program sponsored by TeleSouth Communications and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

The award is presented in honor and memory of Louis N. Wise, former vice president of the Division of Agriculture at Mississippi State University.

Coghlan, winner in the row crops category, and Taylor, winner in the livestock division, were recognized at the annual banquet held at Mississippi State University.

With about 5,000 acres of cotton and soybeans near Scott, Miss., Coghlan farms land with a thick sand cap left after the Mississippi River levee break in 1927, which has required him to find and develop farming practices specific to his unique soils. Land-forming, drainage, irrigation, fertility, row spacing, and planting date management have helped him achieve maximum efficiency and production. And, he says, he depends on an early-planting strategy with his soybeans that allows him to capture August delivery premiums.

“I switched to 30-inch cotton in 1990 to increase yields,” says Coghlan. “In the mid-1990s, we started planting Group 4 soybeans to take advantage of the early spring rains. I've planted as early as March 1. The soybeans will stand a frost. In 2003, we averaged 53 bushels an acre on 1,200 acres of dryland.”

Coghlan is a member of Cotton Incorporated, the National Cotton Council, Delta Council, and is on the board of the Lake Bolivar Gin Co. and Scott Farm Supply.

He and his wife, Marida, have two children and six grandchildren.

W. Sledge Taylor III farms about 6,500 acres in Panola County. Although he grows cotton and soybeans, he is noted for his cattle operation. Since starting in the cattle business in the mid-1970s, he has used the latest livestock management practices and strict preventive health programs to create one of the more outstanding herds in the state.

With a 95 percent pregnancy rate and a 450-pound average weaning weight, the herd averages about 175 pounds of beef per acre. Taylor markets calves through a private auction held at the local livestock barn. Potential buyers are given the opportunity to view the calves in the pasture and then bid at the auction on the ones they've selected.

“The cattle are sold for future delivery at a specified weight and weaned for a minimum of 30 days,” explains Taylor. “On the delivery date, they are delivered to the local livestock barn, sorted, weighed, and loaded on each buyer's truck.”

He is actively involved in the community and in professional organizations where he feels he can bring change and make a difference. He is a past president of the Mississippi Cattlemen's Association and was named Delta Council Achievement Award Cattleman of the Year. He is active in the Como Methodist Church, the North Panola Chamber of Commerce, and the Panola County Livestock Association. He and his wife, Denise, have three children.


Eva Ann Dorris is an ag journalist from Pontotoc, Miss. She can be reached at eadorris@aol.com.