Both sweet potatoes and tobacco are labor-intensive crops, and Vick Farms is a pioneer in using legal, H-2A labor. “Having adequate labor on hand for these crops can be a big advantage in our cotton operation,” Lyn says. “If we get in a situation where we can’t get in a field with the right herbicide, we can always use some of our labor to clean up those fields.”

Each member of the Vick family speaks Spanish. The farm has 10 full-time employees, and all but two speak Spanish.

“It’s a tool that’s important in our farming operation,” he says. “Whether or not I’m fluent in Spanish, I don’t know, but I can explain to any of our H-2A workers what I want them to do and how I want them to do it. Lack of communication should never be an excuse on our farm for not getting things done right.”

Mid-South winner

Being “willing to try new things and think outside the box to address problems” has helped Johnny Little, this year’s High Cotton winner from the Mid-South, be successful.

Little farms 1,175 acres of cotton and 350 acres of corn near Holcomb in north central Mississippi. For many years, he farmed with his father, John Morgan “Buddy” Little, who passed away at the age of 89 last spring

Declining cotton prices have had an impact throughout the Delta states, forcing growers to make adjustments to their production and marketing strategies. For Little that includes cutting back on cotton acres for more corn and putting in three grain bins, as grain prices continue to show strength.

But that doesn’t mean completely giving up on cotton. “I’ll always have cotton in the mix because cotton has always paid our bills.”

His operation is based on maximizing efficiency by keeping equipment in tip-top shape, making variable-rate applications, using no-till, following label instructions and recommendations from his consultant to the letter, and of course, hard work.

Cotton did surprisingly well for Little in 2012, despite a very dry summer. Irrigation and appropriate variety choices for dryland and irrigated fields are critical to making consistently good yields, he says.

Stewardship is synonymous with efficiency on the Little farm, and there’s no better example of this relationship than his commitment to no-till. Little first adopted the practice 10 years ago, and it has proven to reduce labor requirements significantly while enriching the soil’s tilth.