I’ve come to learn that agriculture is more about people –food is our common bond.
Of the events I attend on an annual basis, the National Cotton Council’s Producer Information Exchange Program Tour – commonly called the P.I.E. Tour – is one I look forward to, even if I must scramble to have projects accomplished ahead of time so I can spend at least a day with growers from other regions of the country.
The days are long and, for the California tour, they’re typically during the hottest time of the year. This makes an air-conditioned tour bus or a similarly-cooled building a much-welcome respite from sunbaked farm fields – but who’s complaining?
Watching and listening to the interactions between California farmers and their counterparts from various cotton-growing regions in the country is interesting.
Growers will ask specific questions about a host of agronomic practices and some will even be encouraged to try something new.
For instance, there was the Oklahoma farmer who grows dryland crops – cotton, wheat and grain sorghum – that may try his hand at drip irrigating his cotton fields west of Oklahoma City. Thinking aloud as the tour bus rambled up the road, the grower told me he thinks irrigation could greatly improve his cotton yields, which under his conditions are about a bale to the acre.
I’ve also seen growers wowed by chest-high cotton flourishing in 100-degree heat and the reports that average California yields can be over four bales.
Others stand amazed at the surface irrigation systems built in California and even openly wonder why their tour guides complain about the lack of it for growing crops. It’s when they’re told that water in that large canal is not allowed to be used by farmers that leave them scratching their heads in disbelief.
One Texas cotton farmer wanted to know why I do what I do and what my thoughts were of the kind of work farmers do on a daily basis. I explained my non-farming background to him and how years ago as a reporter I was fascinated at what a California dairyman told me about the ways he reuses water on his dairy.
He was genuinely interested in my story. It’s my role to reciprocate and communicate his story to others.