Ray applies the same sort of cajoling attention to his employees, continually encouraging and challenging his eight farm hands, who are all from the Greenwood, Miss., area. His calm, but firm demeanor has won their respect and has helped to foster in them a sense of pride in the operation.

“I try to treat them like I want to be treated. But they need to know what I expect of them.”

Pete Doyle, 60, is a great example of how that respect was earned. One day, Makamson was taking Doyle home after work, and “Pete told me he’d never had a birthday party. ‘Sure wish I could have me one,’ he said. So every year, when we get through picking cotton, we have a birthday party for Pete. Even though we found out last year that his birthday is in May, he told us we still need to have a birthday party when we get through picking cotton — so, now he has two.”

His pride in the operation is evident in the appearance of the farm, too, according to Trey Cooke, executive director of Delta Wildlife, who has assisted Ray on numerous conservation projects.

“The one thing that strikes you is Ray’s meticulous nature. He is probably the most esthetically-astute farmer I know in the Delta. His shop is clean, the grass is clipped, there are no piles of containers or irrigation pipe lying around. If you were to ever want to take somebody to see one of the best farming operations, Ray’s would be one you’d want them to see.”

“He runs one of the cleanest operations of almost anyone I know,” says Jerry Singleton, area Extension agent for Leflore County. “From the shop floor to his equipment, everything is always clean.”

“My shop, my equipment, my tractors, represent all the money that I’ve banked through the years,” Makamson explains. “I’m invested in these things, and the people who work for me take pride in them, too. We take good care of things — I like things neat and orderly.”

His conservation efforts mesh perfectly with his forward-looking style.

As a member of Delta Wildlife, he participated in the Monsanto Mississippi River Partnership Project, created to determine the effectiveness of conservation measures on improving wildlife habitat and water quality. He installed numerous water control structures to reduce nutrient and sediment loss from his cropland and to benefit water quality in adjacent streams, lakes, and rivers.

Drop pipes and other water control structures dot the farm. Most of the water is directed to run off into the Yazoo River or Roebuck Lake. He has helped transform the lake into fishing spot for his children and grandchildren, and he also manages intensely for wildlife, deer and waterfowl.

Ray started land forming in the late 1970s, primarily to improve drainage on the farm. He started irrigating in 1988 and today the farm is 90 percent irrigated, mostly down the furrow.

“Furrow irrigation is so much more efficient, and you get a better return,” he says. “We try to manage our water the best we can so we don’t over-water or waste water.”

Rollout pipe “has been a good tool for us, but it creates another problem if you leave it out there too long. When we’re done with it and we know we’re done with it, we collect it for recycling.”