What is in this article?:
- Harry Flowers: Family farm tradition spanning generations
- Gin built in 1950s
- Increased gin yard space
• In the decades since he first started working the graveyard shift at the gin for his uncle Roy Flowers, Harry Flowers has been a participant in an evolution in farming and ginning — from the first early-day mechanical cotton pickers to today’s on-board module machines, from a 1950s gin that creaked out 4 bales per hour to a modern plant that can whiz through 1,000 bales in a day.
DURING HIS CAREER in ginning and farming, Harry Flowers has been in the forefront of adapting new technologies and innovative practices.
Increased gin yard space
“Our next problem was storage. We didn’t have a large enough gin yard to hold as many modules as needed to keep the gin operating. So, we increased our gin yard area; now we have two big yards that are adequate to handle the inventory needed to keep the gin running. We could now store probably 700 modules on our gin yards.”
Over the years, Harry says, “We’ve had a continual program of landforming on our farm, and probably 95 percent of our land has now been put to grade. About 85 percent of the land is irrigated, mostly furrow, and the landforming has allowed us to handle and use water more efficiently.”
With the transition to grains in recent years, they have installed storage bins with a total capacity of 315,000 bushels.
“With the efficiency of modern combines, trying to move corn to an elevator, where there are often long lines, is just too time-consuming,” he says. “These bins allow us to harvest and market our corn more efficiently.”
Although cotton acreage will be reduced on their farm this year, with the expectation of a much smaller crop nationally, Harry says it’s important that cotton maintain a production level sufficient to support the industry infrastructure.
“We don’t need to lose that,” he says. “A lot of gins have closed over the years, and we need to try and keep an adequate ginning infrastructure so we can handle the volume when we work through the current surplus and cotton demand picks up again.”
When he first started farming, he says, “Cotton was 24 cents to 26 cents a pound. The next year, it went to 28 cents, then 30 cents, then 32 cents. We thought 32 cents was just great, so we booked a lot of acreage — and cotton went to $1. That was a lesson learned, about selling too soon.”
Harry was born and grew up here in this small community and has never moved. “My mother, Mary Helen Eggleston, was born here in 1910 and lived in the same place her entire life,” he says. “My father, Taylor Graydon Flowers, grew up in the Cockrun community near Olive Branch, Miss., and came here following his graduation from the University of Mississippi.
“After I got my business/accounting degree at Ole Miss, I spent a year on active duty with the Mississippi Air National Guard, training in California as a navigator. I actually thought about living in California, but my father had some health problems and asked me to come back and take over the farm. It has been a great life and I’ve never regretted a minute of it.
“Counting my part-time work on the farm in my growing-up years, I’ve been involved in our family’s farming operations for 55 years, and have been actively farming on my own for 44 years.
“In my ginning career, I’ve been fortunate to have been guided by our gin managers and programs and training made available through the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, the National Cotton Ginners Association, and the USDA Cotton Ginning Laboratory at Stoneville. It has been a continual learning experience, and I’m always interested in what’s new and improved in the industry.”
Now, Harry and his brothers have sons or grandsons who are active in their farming operations, continuing the long family tradition. Harry’s sons, Scott and Graydon, farm with him; Dick’s sons, Bowen and Mattson farm with him; and Sonny’s grandson, Taylor, farms in his operation.
Harry and his wife, the former Lassie Cooke, have four children, Charles, Amelia, Scott, and Graydon, and six grandchildren, Allie Harris, Gray, Gaines, Jonathan, Anna, and Mattson, with another due to arrive in June.
In addition to his farm/gin business interests, he is a board member of Clarksdale First National Bank, and has served on the board of the former United South Bank and the Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, as treasurer of St. George Episcopal Church. He has served as a delegate to the National Cotton Council and as an alternate Cotton Board delegate, was on the board of the Staple Cotton cooperative for 20 years, and was a Delta Council vice-president and director.
In 1998, he was named winner of the Farm Press/Cotton Foundations High Cotton Award for the Mid-South states, in recognition of his environmental stewardship.
“I’ve been going to the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show since the 1970s,” he says, “and I’m always impressed by the outstanding show our association puts together each year. It’s a great opportunity to learn what’s new in the ag industry.”