The Nemecs: A Family Legacy in Cotton

In 1999, I was born into a family that I had no clue had such a large connection to our world and its people. I quickly learned that there is one thing every Nemec has known since coming to America at the turn of the 20th century: Agriculture.

In my lifetime, I have known Stanley Nemec (my G-Paw), my dad, and dad’s sisters (Aunt Rachel, Aunt Lori, and Aunt Erica) to be involved in agriculture. Erica worked for Texas A&M University for 20 years doing agricultural research with insecticides. Lori and Rachel moved to Australia to each branch off into their own agricultural consulting businesses in the nineties, and my dad Mark remains the infamous agricultural consultant that many in Texas and across the nation know.

The Nemecs: A Family Legacy in Cotton
The Nemecs: A Family Legacy in Cotton

The passion for agriculture has been passed on from one generation to the next in the Nemec family. Top photo: Stanley Nemec (G-Paw) with granddaughter Cassidy in the early 2000s. Bottom: Cassidy and her dad Mark pose in front of a cotton field in Texas.

It all started in 1901 when my great-great grandparents came over on a boat to Galveston from Czechoslovakia. Erica said that women were not supposed to be pregnant on the boat, but my great-great grandmother was pregnant with my great-great aunt. Two years later, my great grandfather was born and came to be known as “Popo” to my dad and aunts. I sometimes think how interesting it was that the first of my “Nemec heritage” came into the country at the beginning of the 20th century and I came at the end of it. Though I never knew the other “bookend” of the American Nemecs, I find myself thinking quite often of what it must have been like for them when they first entered into this new and unknown territory they had only ever heard of before.

Dad always told me that the first of the Nemecs eventually found their way up from the coast to the Brazos Bottom area. They were given the classic “40 acres and a mule” in Smetana, a miniscule town near Bryan. That land that eventually became a family farm and is still part of my family to this day and is a comforting place we now call “The Land.”

The Nemecs: A Family Legacy in Cotton

Many of the Nemec women have been involved in agriculture from an early age. Pictured (from left) are Erica Cox, Allison Cox, Cassidy Nemec, and Lori Nemec. They are holding a framed article featuring Stanley Nemec.

Growing up, my aunts said that they were involved in agriculture from an early age, or as they put it, “when we were old enough to walk,” Erica said.

“My earliest memories [of agriculture] are of waking up in Dad’s truck. He would be out in the paddock checking cotton, and I would watch him from the window,” Rachel said.

“I think as we were younger it was irrigating weeds, hoeing weeds, and then as we got older it was more of the checking and the research of the plots,” Lori said.

The research was extensive in insecticides during the time of G-Paw’s prime. “Because back then, there were a lot of new chemistries coming out,” Lori said. “The boll weevil was here, so there were lots of different chemistries and research to go along with it to look at efficacy and effect on [insect] beneficials,” Lori said.

“When I graduated eighth grade, Dad bought me a Honda XL80 motorbike, and I used to collect plant samples for nutrient testing with our petiole tester. Eventually, I took over the research side of the business,” Rachel said.

G-Paw passed away in 2009, but he continued doing all he could for the industry of agriculture until his last day on Earth. “He was confident, smart, driven… he wasn’t afraid to try something different,” Lori said.

“Dad was the first one out of his family that went to college,” Lori said. “First, he was in the Seminary, and he was going to become a priest until he met your grandmother.”

Eric added: “And then he went back to school, and Popo thought he was crazy because he wasn’t making any money. He was curious. He wanted to know more.”

Rachel said that he did not finish college to be slotted into any one discipline. “He saw how everything fit together.”

“He was always trying to come up with a plan to fix things.” Lori added. “He was, out of his family [before him], I guess, the anomaly.”

Stanley went on to become a world-renown agricultural consultant and researcher. He started Nemec Agriservices, Inc. and involved his whole family in research on insects, pests, and chemicals. Stanley worked with many farmers in Texas and throughout the U.S., checking a multitude of fields for diseases and pests before making recommendations. Later in his life, he was asked to come help with research in Australia — hence, how Lori and Rachel ended up there.

The Nemecs: A Family Legacy in Cotton

Checking crops and advising farmers are skills Mark Nemec learned from his dad Stanley.

Not surprisingly, Stanley’s son, my dad, followed in his footsteps as well. Dad did not graduate from college, but I tell everyone I can that he is the smartest person I know. The 10 to 12-hour days were long enough at the fields helping his dad, so going to night school for four hours and doing homework did not play out well in the 24 hours of the day that he had. G-Paw told him that he would teach him everything he needed to know, and he certainly did. Dad learned a lot from G-Paw and has that same curiosity in his day-to-day life when checking crops and advising his farmers.

“I got started in agriculture at a very young age,” Dad said. “And today, I work from Comanche to Navasota, working for about 20 different farmers.”

“I like to try and educate my farmers as I go to show them what’s going on,” he said. “It takes time, but it’s something they really appreciate.”

Pulling a quote from G-Paw’s book, dad emphasized that “farming doesn’t stop for weekends or holidays.”

He said that he enjoys the challenge and excitement agriculture brings to our world. “To keep expanding, learning more, trying to stay up to date with the new stuff that is coming down the pipe faster and faster, it’s exciting and challenging,” he said. “It challenges me and tests me every day to keep me on my toes, knowing that I am responsible for that man’s crop, and helping them out has just been a joy.”

I wanted to retrieve a Mother-in-Law’s perspective of my dad and G-Paw (because everyone knows Mother-in-Laws are the real experts on humankind), so I went straight to the source herself: Nana.

“G-Paw, in a lot of ways, reminded me of my grandfather… a very kind man,” she said.

She spoke fondly of both my G-Paw and dad, emphasizing that their hard work ethic went and goes “way above all expectation… way above and beyond,” she said.

Referring to my dad, Nana said “He does everything he can to make their [the farmers] job and their life easier for them even though it means that his job and his life during that time is not so easy.” She went on to say what many others have come to know throughout the years. “That’s by his own doing because of his own work ethic that he got from his dad.”

The Nemecs: A Family Legacy in Cotton

Currently attending Baylor University, Cassidy Nemec has learned a lot about agriculture from her family.

Even after my G-Paw’s passing, she complemented my dad on his constant dedication to his family in the midst of his hectic work schedule. “Your daddy has done as much for us as he could have and would have, I believe, for his own parents, and for that, Nana and Papa are forever grateful and appreciative.” She said that he is a wonderful role model, provider, and loving husband, father, and son-in-law, crediting both of his parents for his upbringing.

Dad and his three sisters know this business inside and out, and they are a big part, I believe, of what makes this country and this world whole.

“Agriculture is an industry that we need,” Dad said. “We feed and clothe the people of the world… we love the industry, we love the business, and we have a passion for it to keep it going.”

As for me? I feel a great purpose behind incorporating myself into the industry of agriculture. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help people. Every day that I participate in this industry, I know I am doing just that. I can help feed people, help clothe people, and help educate people. I can make a difference in this beautiful, crazy, altogether wonderful world. Agriculture is and will always be my life, my calling, and my legacy forevermore.