This spring, the National Cotton Council asked Farm Press publications to editorially cover its four-day 10th annual Multi-Commodity Exchange Program (MCEP) tour of Idaho, including farm visits and processing operations. I was thrilled to join the agricultural entourage since it’s always an adventure to learn about our nation’s diverse agricultural industry.
The purpose of the NCC trip was to help cotton farmers learn about other crops, other production areas, and about challenges faced by other growers.
The June trip included about a dozen cotton growers from across the cotton belt – from Arizona to Georgia and many states in between. They traveled by bus across southeastern Idaho. The vehicle’s bug-hit windshield was evidence of the 1,100-mile adventure.
You can read more about the NCC trip online.
The “Gem State” is an $8 billion agricultural powerhouse, perhaps best known for its fine potatoes, and yet as the cotton farmers learned many other high quality crops as well.
The cotton producers visited barley, wheat, potato, alfalfa, cattle, and dairy farms; processing operations involving cheese, potato processing and packing, and malt barley; plus research and Extension facilities focused on potatoes, small grains, and trout.
At stop after stop, the cotton growers met and talked with local farmers and other agricultural leaders. There is much to be said about putting two farmers who don’t know each other in the same room, or in this case a farm field or office. Shyness fades quickly, and conversation delves into a litany of questions and answers. New friends are made quickly – many lifelong.
While the stops on the tour were filled with valuable information, the bus itself was a beehive of activity, minus the bees. The cotton growers spent many hours talking with their ‘neighbors’ in nearby seats. The camaraderie was impressive as they shared farming stories and even knee-slapping laughter.
Trips and experiences beyond one’s own farm can be life changing. Several of the farmers on this trip acknowledged it was difficult to leave their farms with their busy schedules to join the NCC trip. Yet at the end of the tour these same folks shared that it was a great experience and worth every minute.