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Texas Father-Son Duo Learns To Grow Cotton

By Amanda Huber
Southeast Editor
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In most farming operations, the father teaches the son how to produce a crop. But Bill and Brett Slomchinski, father and son producers from Leming, Texas, are really learning how to grow cotton together.

“This farm has been in our family for 113 years,” says Bill, the elder Slomchinski. “My dad was born on this place. It’s not a real good place for farming because it is rolling, but we’ve managed to do cattle, peanuts, corn, wheat, hay and now cotton.

“This is our sixth cotton crop, but I’ve got 37 peanut crops under my belt,” he adds. “I remember dad had some cotton when I was a kid. With cotton at 55 and 60 cents, there wasn’t that much incentive to grow it.”

However, that changed with the last Farm Bill and recent price increases, as did the area’s farming landscape.

“Brett is probably the youngest farmer in the county,” says Bill. “I’m excited for him. A lot of people won’t say that. You hear, ‘Well, I don’t want my boy to farm,’ but I hate to hear that because what’s going to happen 10 or 15 years from now? It’s not something he can just learn overnight.”

Working Together Equals Success

Both father and son attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, then returned home to farm.

Bill says, “When I got out of college, my dad asked me what I wanted to do and I said, ‘farm.’ He said, ‘Okay, if you will drill a well, I will help you. If you don’t, I won’t.’ We knocked horns about that because it was a wet year, but he was right about needing irrigation.”

Bill and Brett, too, have had to learn how to work together to make the farm a continuing success. For instance, Brett takes care of the hay sales now.

“People were calling me, and they would call Brett,” says Bill. “Then, he would call me and say, ‘Dad, you sold that hay that I had planned to sell.’”

Weed Control Challenges

As for cotton, they are both still learning about the crop, and this year has been quite the challenge, especially in weed management.

“We came in and strip tilled with a Bigham Brothers Terra Till,” says Bill. “We had to water the ground twice just to get the plow into the ground because it didn’t rain all winter. Then, we used an implement called a one-tripper that has coulters and a shank and knifed fertilizer into the row.”

After planting, Bill says, they made a mistake in choosing to wait rather than spray Roundup immediately.

“We kept the weeds, thinking that we needed them for a while so that the field wouldn’t blow,” he says. “Our biggest battle was in trying to kill the weeds with this drought.”

Bill gives Brett a nod toward improving their weed control with the use of a minimum-till cultivator.

“The cotton was growing, but the strip in between was full of weeds,” he says. “So Brett ran a rig through there, and the field is clean now.”

Brett echoes that opinion.

“I just know cotton’s easy to kill when it’s coming up and hard to kill when the crop is over with,” the younger Slomchinski says about this row crop that has only yielded just over two bales to the acre for them. “We mainly just need it to rain now.”

Bill sums it up, “We would like to make a good crop and get a good price for it, but most times it does not go hand-in-hand.

Either you’ve got price and no product or product and no price. I think all farmers are due to have a little bit of both.”

Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or ahuber@onegrower.com.

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