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The 'village effect'

Shelley E. Huguley swfp-shelley-huguley-bankhead-hc-22-troy.jpg
Mary and Randall Bankhead, known as M.E. and Grandall to their grandsons, laugh with their grandsons Troy, center, and Ben, far right. Randall says farming takes all his family members working together. "We work hand-in-hand."
Randall Bankhead receives 2022 Southwest High Cotton Award and credits the people in his life for his production success.

We're celebrating cotton growers this month! But not just any growers. It's our 28th class of High Cotton winners.  

Each year, Farm Press in cooperation with The Cotton Foundation, recognizes four Cotton Belt farmers who produce quality cotton using regenerative practices. The belt is packed with qualifying producers. Winners are chosen from submitted nominations.  

My 2022 winner is Randall Bankhead who farms in the Champion, Texas, area near Roscoe. While I did not know him prior to our interview, his wife Mary and I met on a 2018 Women in Cotton tour, so I was excited about seeing her again and visiting their farm.  

swfp-shelley-huguley-bankhead-hc-22-schuchards-ben.jpgTwo-year-old Ben Schuchard, right, is excited about his Grandall (Randall Bankhead) being named the 2022 High Cotton Award winner. Also pictured, from left, Troy, Laura and Chase Schucard, the Bankhead's daughter and son-in-law. (Photo by Shelley E. Huguley

My day with the Bankheads began on their second-story, wrap-around porch that overlooks land that's been in Randall's family for more than 100 years. In the late 1890s, his family headed west from Alabama, in search of a drier climate due to health issues. Their westward progression continued for about 10 to 15 years until they settled in Champion. Mary jokes that that's where the mule died. Randall is the fourth generation to farm that land. 

See photo gallery, Relationships, cover crops, no-till fuel Bankhead's cotton production

While he's proud of his heritage, he'll tell you what's most meaningful is "that we've been able to adapt with the changing farming practices and environment, and that we've been able to maintain ourselves here and live here and be productive on this land." 

Randall credits his family for developing his love for the land and a desire to care for it to the best of one's ability. Initially, that was with maximum tillage, believing that the more the land was plowed the better. Randall has evolved from conventional tillage to no-till rotation with cover crops. "When I look back, they did the best they could with the technology they had at that moment in time. That's what I'm trying to do today." 

See, High Cotton consensus: 'It takes a village to grow cotton'

Randall's soil management and methodology are only a part of his production success. "I'm not in this by myself," he said. "It takes a village to raise a cotton crop." 

First and foremost is his family. From his wife Mary, who he describes as the cog of their operation to his daughter Laura Schuchard and her husband Chase who farm alongside them to the Bankheads' son Scott, who though not on the farm, provides counsel when making farm-related decisions, Randall says family is essential. His grandsons Troy and Ben are a treasured part as well.  

swfp-shelley-huguley-bankhead-hc-22-mary-left.jpgRandall and Mary Bankhead, Roscoe, Texas. Randall describes Mary as "the priority" of their operation, "the cog." (Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)

Other "villagers" include his agronomist Jennifer Lane, gin manager Larry Black and various commodity advocates such as Lauren Decker with the Rolling Plains Cotton Growers and organizations like the National Cotton Council. Randall calls it the "village affect."   

Production agriculture is so much more than farm management. It's family, friends and fellow laborers who help each farmer produce this nation's food and fiber. So, congratulations Randall on all your success and to all those in your village! 

The 2022 High Cotton Award winners are as follows:

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