One of the most gratifying and enjoyable parts of serving the U.S. cotton industry is interviewing and highlighting some of the truly great leaders who go above and beyond the ordinary in every aspect of the work they do. And once a year for the past 37 years, we’ve highlighted a single individual who’s work clearly stands out above the crowd through the Cotton Grower Achievement Award.
Now more than ever, the U.S. cotton industry needs to identify and amplify clear voices that are helping to illuminate the way to the future. Larry McClendon of Marianna, AR, the 2006 Grower Achievement Award Winner, is the kind of leader that offers inspiration and insight to an industry in the midst of seismic global change.
In these pages, we honor and celebrate the career so far of an outstanding grower, who as a boy never thought he’d return to the cotton fields, but after college fell in love with the industry and its people all over again. Now, no one descriptor accurately portrays McClendon, whose cotton resume includes grower, ginner, warehouseman, cotton-association executive, award winner, and dedicated family man. Except for, perhaps, “leader.”
We at Cotton Grower magazine welcome Larry McClendon to this elite class of individuals serving U.S. cotton with honor, and we were pleased to present the award to Larry in front of more than 250 cotton leaders at our annual Beltwide Luncheon at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans. We’ve learned a lot from our experience with him, and we hope that by sharing his story that you’ll be equally inspired.
Yours In Service,
A special thank you to Monsanto Co. and Case IH for their sponsorship of the Cotton Grower Achievement Award, and for their support of leadership in U.S. cotton.
A Lesson In Leadership
Larry McClendon has made quite a life for himself in the cotton business, but it was no overnight success story. The Marianna, AR, grower produced his first crop in 1975, and then slowly over the course of three decades deepened his involvement in the industry to include ginning and warehousing as owner of McClendon, Mann & Fenton Gin Co., while also finding time to give back through association leadership. His dedication to excellence and remarkable success are the main reasons why McClendon was honored by his peers at the 37th Cotton Grower Beltwide Luncheon at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans as the 2006 Cotton Grower Achievement Award recipient.
In his remarks at the Luncheon, McClendon underscored some of the industry’s greatest accomplishments, noting that many of them had emerged and been discussed over the years at the Beltwide Luncheon.
“I’ve sat in this Luncheon for several years, and the biggest thing that’s come to me out of this meeting is that I’ve heard some of the wildest and craziest ideas that could ever surface,” he says. “I reflect back on those – herbicides we can spray over the top of cotton that kill everything but the cotton, insecticides that are contained within the seed, 6 row cotton pickers, cotton pickers that have on-board module builders, satellite imagery that allows us to better manage our crops … and strangely enough, as I stand before you today, most of these ‘crazy ideas’ now have practical applications on most farms across the U.S.”
McClendon grew his business by carefully watching these trends and others, and staying open-minded to change. His broad involvement in the industry includes involvement in the National Cotton Ginners Association, where he currently serves as chairman, and in the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, where he was president in 2000. He received both these associations’ highest honor as Ginner of the Year.
“Larry is just a good businessman,” says Tim Price, SCGA executive vice president. “He’s a guy who can tell you when a tractor got stuck on the back forty, and yet at the same time he may be entertaining a Chinese mill merchant. He has a great grasp of things going on around him and how all of these things have to work together.”
Work To Do
In accepting the award and acknowledging the industry’s many accomplishments, McClendon took a few moments to reflect on the work that U.S. growers must do to remain competitive domestically and globally in the midst of big market changes.
“I wonder today, as I stand before you, how will cotton fit in a new energy component in a modern world?” he asked. “I get concerned about how will we shape farm policy – we’ve got to protect the interest of the grower out here, but yet again, we’re influenced by the World Trade Organization, a new Congress, and non-governmental organizations like the Environmental Working Group. All those will have impact and influence on our decision-making.
“We’ve got to recognize that we’re in a world market,” he continues, “and we’ve got to be more efficient today with how we move cotton from the U.S. producer to our customers here in this country and overseas.”
In concluding his acceptance, he challenged his peers in the audience to stretch their thinking, and their businesses, to find ways to survive and thrive amid the shifting winds of the U.S. cotton industry.
“So I lay those issues out before you today, and those ideas. There’s been kind of a catch phrase in the media over the last month – when there is some discussion as to what President Bush would do in Iraq, the media guy asks, ‘Well, will he go big or will he go long?’ I want to say to you today in agriculture, that’s exactly what we need to be doing. We need to be thinking big and thinking long.
“So, I challenge you all to do that and next year, when I’m back (at this Luncheon), I’d like to hear some more crazy ideas from you.”
|COTTON GROWER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNERS|
|1970||Dan Pustejovsky||1980||Herman Majors||1990||Billy Griggs||2000||Jimmy Hargett|
|1971||John Nigliazzo||1981||Dalton R. Pittman||1991||Rick Parsons||2001||Hollis Isbell|
|1972||Jack Hamilton||1982||Tommy Funk||1992||Jay Hardwick||2002||Kenneth Hood|
|1973||William Falls||1983||Bill Pearson||1993||Steve Sossaman||2003||Larkin Martin|
|1974||Jack Funk||1984||Dr. Richard Kinzer||1994||Jack Frey/Bill Tracy||2004||Don Cameron|
|1975||Owen Bibb||1985||Wayne Bush||1995||Charles Parker||2005||Steve Verrett|
|1976||Joe Craven||1986||Chuck Youngker||1996||Jimmy Blythe||2006||LARRY MCCLENDON|
|1977||Duke Barr||1987||Robroy Fisher||1997||Jack Hoover|
|1978||Ben Bearden||1988||Ray Young||1998||Allen L. Baucom|
|1979||Marion Baskin||1989||Mark Borba||1999||Paul Good|