130 years. Between them, that’s how long this year’s High Cotton Award winners have been farming. But, while they may have had a lot of opportunities to become set in their ways, these farmers rarely shy away from trying new technologies that will help them grow cotton profitably and in an environmentally friendly manner.

Since Farm Press Publications and The Cotton Foundation began the High Cotton Awards in 1995, we have chronicled the environmental stewardship efforts of 71 cotton producers. Since then, we’ve found that environmental stewardship and a willingness to try new technology go hand in hand.

That is certainly the case with this year’s winners:

• Ronnie Lee, Bronwood, Ga., Southeast Region;

• Ray Makamson, Itta Bena, Miss., Mid-South Region;

• Eric Seidenberger, Garden City, Texas, Southwest Region;

• Bruce Heiden, Buckeye, Ariz., Far West Region.

“These are some of the most environmentally conscientious producers we’ve featured in our 16 years of presenting the bronze Cotton Boll awards,” said Greg Frey, vice-president for the Penton Media Inc. Agricultural Group, which publishes the Farm Presses.

“Some of them have been farming for a while, but they always put the environment and taking care of their land and water first.”

The High Cotton Awards are made possible through a grant from Farm Press to The Cotton Foundation. The winners receive an expenses-paid trip to the National Cotton Council’s Beltwide Cotton Conferences, which will be held in Atlanta, Jan. 4-7.

Co-sponsors of this year’s awards are Ace Pump Company, All-Tex Seed, Americot/NexGen, Arysta LifeScience, Deltapine, Helena Chemical Company, John Deere, Rio Tinto Minerals — U.S. Borax and Syngenta.

The winners and their families will be introduced by the editors of Southeast Farm Press, Delta Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Western Farm Press during a breakfast at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta.

Southeast winner Ronnie Lee has successfully combined the concepts of stewardship and profitability to build Lee Farms into one of the premier cotton farming operations in the Southeast, Southeast Farm Press Editor Paul Hollis wrote in an article about Lee.

While Lee oversees the farming of about 6,200 acres and multiple business enterprises, he also takes time to work on perfecting the use of such conservation practices as strip-till and no-till farming and modifying them when unexpected hurdles arise.