Attending the 2019 Beltwide Cotton Conferences: A Student’s Perspective
I still remember the first time I attended the Beltwide Cotton Conference. My parents and I went to Atlanta, GA in 2011 after receiving the news that my dad won the 2010 Cotton Consultant of the Year. Getting to miss school to “go to Beltwide” and see my dad get that award is something I will always remember.
This past January, eight years after my first Beltwide, I went to my fourth conference, held this year in New Orleans, LA. Each year, I see familiar faces and meet new people. This year was no different. I sat through several informative meetings and learned so much about the state of cotton in Texas and throughout the Mid-South. From new varieties to how to better manage the cotton crop, there was no shortage of knowledge gained throughout the week.
Listening to industry professionals speak throughout the week, I heard remnants of everything from optimism to disappointment. Of course, we would all like everything in this industry to run smoothly and without problems. Unfortunately, as we also all know, it does not happen that way. The commonality between everyone who spoke, however, was passion. Passion for their field, passion for their understanding of agriculture, and passion for their commitment to agriculture. Whether disheartened or buoyant, they cared. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be there, and I for one, am extremely appreciative of everyone’s efforts in this industry and their persistence through trials, however complex they may be.
As a student, I get the privilege of applying what I’ve learned in some of my classes to what is being said during presentations. I remember leaning over to my dad a time or two to say that I had learned that in class. It was neat to see my education paying off on “real-world” topics. Sometimes, I think it’s difficult to know if what you are learning will actually ever apply to what you want to do one day or even if it applies to your industry in general. Being able to get some confirmation like this in meetings taking place outside my college tells me that, yes, the information I learn in school does apply, and it does make a difference.
I like to say that this industry is like the weather, unpredictable and crazy most times. The people who give their all to this field inspire me and many others to look forward to that next sunny day when everything seems right with the world. My only hope throughout all the ups and downs is that I get more opportunities to expand my applicable agricultural knowledge so that I may one day make my own difference in this ever-changing world for those who rely so heavily on this crazy, amazing, unpredictable, wonderful industry.