Cotton is coming on strong in Virginia and each weekday morning during cropping season growers in southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina tune in their radios to get the latest dose of cotton common sense from Johnny Parker.

Parker is a cotton agronomist, who works for Continental Cotton Gin in Windsor, Va. How he became one of the pied pipers guiding the resurgence of cotton in Virginia via multiple communication outlets is a story in a story.

Parker graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in agronomy and after trying his hand as a crop consultant, he followed a popular career path, working as an Extension farm agent in Duplin County, N.C.

In 1990, he moved on to work in the Virginia Tech Extension System. Parker explains his unlikely move as a radio host, “The county in which I worked had a long history of the county agent working with a local radio station. So, it was part of the job I had there. When I came to work at the cotton gin, we continued on with the radio show,” he explains.

The radio show transitioned from a farm radio show to a daily cotton radio show. The show eats up these one minute segments, which are updated three times a week during the growing season. Finding things to talk about is the easy part, Parker says, finding the time to do the shows when things really get going is the hard part.

As technology has changed, Parker added the script to his webpage for Commonwealth Gin. The script for the radio show is part of Johnny’s Blog, which is available on multiple electronic outlets. He says the blog allows him to expand some of the timely topics, which he couldn’t do in a one minute radio show.

"The radio station is WLQM 101.7 in Franklin, Va. The program only runs during the growing season, usually from early April through late October. In addition, I use my web page for off-season comments under 'Johnny's Blog' and this is typically the script from the radio program. You can go to www.commonwealthgin.com for that website," Parker says.

Now, his radio show is picked up as far away as Gates County, N.C., and throughout much of the Virginia cotton growing belt. “Farmers certainly get a lot of information from the show, and hopefully some of the things I talk about has helped cotton farmers make better management decisions,” Parker says.

Long-time Virginia farmer and agri-businessman John Crumpler goes a little further in recognizing Parker’s contribution to the growth of cotton acreage. “We don’t have a cotton specialist in Virginia, and as much as anyone, Johnny has been responsible for getting farmers the information they need to grow cotton,” Crumpler says.

The Virginia grower says Virginia cotton growers are fortunate to have two gins in the state, Mid-Atlantic gin in Emporia and Continental Gin, that hire cotton consultants to help their growers produce high yielding, high quality cotton.