Integrated pest management and boll weevil eradication helped Spain reduce pesticide applications. He uses no-till planting and has installed drainage along with other conservation practices. He also conducts crop variety trials for Mississippi Extension and private seed companies.

He uses precision farming practices to efficiently apply chemicals and fertilizers. In addition, he uses a smartphone to keep up with weather and crop market reports and to troubleshoot field problems.

Variety trials and improved fertility have reduced the incidence of iron chlorosis problems in soybeans.

Spain trusts cooperatives for marketing his cotton. In past years, he sold cotton through the Beltwide Cotton Cooperative. He now markets his cotton through the Staple Cotton Cooperative Association based in Greenwood, Miss.

“You can put your cotton into the Staplcotn pool or contract a certain number of bales at a time,” he explains. “Through the years, the cooperative has gotten us a better than average price, and this year, all of our family’s cotton will go into the Staplcotn pool.”

Spain uses forward contracts to market soybeans and wheat. He also sells wheat and soybeans through the Cargill AgHorizons network of grain elevators.

He receives e-mail and text messages several times daily from Cargill, advising him of changes in the grain markets. “I can even check on the moisture, foreign material and location of my grain when it is stored in Cargill elevators,” he says. “I can access the Cargill website and track my grain loads to make sure there are no mistakes.”

He also uses SST Summit software to record field data such as planting rates, fertilizer, herbicide and insecticide applications and yields for later analysis. He says, “We rent from 73 landlords, and this software helps us keep up with the 300 fields our family farms.”

In Prentiss County, he serves on the Farm Service Agency County Committee, on the Ag Advisory Board for the local Extension office and is a member of the Soil & Water Conservation District. He’s also a board member for a local bank. He serves on a producer advisory committee for Mississippi State University and is a past member of the Beltwide Cotton Cooperative board of directors.

He believes in introducing agriculture to new generations, and he hosts kindergarten students during visits to his farm.

Bill and his wife Teri are active in Gaston Baptist Church. Teri has an impressive off-farm medical career. She manages surgical and bariatric clinics in the nearby city of Tupelo, Miss. She has also been active in Booneville Junior Auxiliary, Lee County Habitat for Humanity, Lee County Live Well Health Fair and the Northeast Mississippi Zeta Tau Alpha Alumni Association.

Bill has two adult daughters, Jennifer and Jessica, from a previous marriage.  Both Jennifer and Jessica work as educators.

Tragedy struck his family during the mid 1990s when a hunting accident killed his brother David, and again in 2010 when his son William Guy Spain died in a car accident.

“I farmed with my brother,” says Spain. “And before his death, our son was an active and involved member of our farming operation. I could depend on Guy, whether he was planting or spraying cotton. He was a reliable farm worker and would have become a great farmer.”

After his son’s death, his son-in-law Justin Taylor stepped up to take over some of Guy’s responsibilities. “Justin is married to Jessica, and he was a successful landscape architect before he joined our farm,” says Spain. “Justin is responsible for spraying, planting and scouting our soybeans. We hire a consultant to scout our cotton.”

Joe Street, associate director of the Mississippi State University Extension Service, is the state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards.

Charlie Stokes, area agronomy agent with Mississippi Extension, nominated Spain for the award. Stokes works with growers in several counties and says he nominated Spain for the award because of the quality of his farming and his attention to detail. “Bill is a pleasure to work with,” says Stokes.