What is in this article?:
• Though the 2013 award is a gin award, make no mistake the heart and soul of McCleskey Cotton Company, including the gin, is owner and co-founder Ronnie Lee.
• Jimmy Sanford, a cotton farmer and business leader in Prattville, Ala.,, was presented the Southern Cotton Growers Grower Achievement Award.
• The late Billy Carter, a North Carolina cotton farmer and long-time executive director of the North Carolina Cotton Growers Association, was inducted into the Southern Cotton Growers Hall of Fame
RONNIE LEE accepts the Gin of the Year award during the recent Southeastern Cotton Ginners annual meeting.
From Texas to North Carolina
Once comprised of a small group of central Alabama growers, AQCA membership has grown to encompass over 1,000 cotton producers in nine states from Texas to North Carolina.
Sanford is a true blue blood among U.S. cotton farmers. His grandparents and great-grandparents, Will Howard Smith and McQueen Smith owned and operated McQueen-Smith Farms, one of the largest and most influential farming operations in the country.
Home Place Farms is one of several successful farming operations with roots that go back to McQueen Smith Farms.
Sanford, whose family helped build the agriculture program at Auburn University, was recently named to the Land-Grant University’s top governing body, the Board of Trustees.
Sanford will represent District Four on the Auburn University Board.
“As I look out over the audience here at the Southern-Southeastern annual meeting, I see so many people who are much more worthy of this award than me.
“I truly appreciate this award, and feel like I have been rewarded so richly by the many friends and colleagues who are in the audience today,” Sanford says.
Billy Carter was born and raised on a cotton farm in Scotland Neck, N.C.
He was a successful farmer and prided himself on always giving back to the industry he loved. His life was cut short from injuries received in an automobile accident a couple of years back, but the footprint he leaves on the cotton industry continues to be huge.
Carter was named posthumously to the Southern Cotton Growers Hall of Fame during the organization’s recent annual meeting in Atlanta.
His long-time friend and colleague Ronnie Fleming, a fellow Scotland Neck cotton farmer, gave a moving and heart-felt presentation of the award to Carter’s widow Beverly Carter, who accepted the award on her late husband’s behalf.
“The Hall of Fame award is not given based on positions held or significant contributions to the cotton industry, it’s given for a lifetime commitment of excellence to cotton, from production to marketing,” Fleming says.
“Only three other cotton industry leaders have been named to the Hall of Honor prior to Carter’s induction,” he adds.
Billy Carter served tirelessly to help local, state and national cotton organizations while he was an active cotton farmer.
In 2002, he retired from cotton farming to head the North Carolina Cotton Growers Association.
Early on he saw the vital importance of overseas markets to U.S. cotton growers and served in several leadership capacities to cultivate foreign markets for growers across the U.S. Cotton Belt.
In accepting the award, Beverly Carter said, “Billy loved the land, and loved everything and everybody associated with growing cotton.
“He would be proud today to see the industry he loved so dearly in such good hands, as is evidenced by the leadership of this organization.
“Billy would be humbled and he would be very proud to receive this award,” she said.