Cotton, the Cash Crop

By Victoria Holloway

What’s happening in China, Pakistan, India or Morocco seems to have no effect on Lubbockites. But this is an illusion.

A global oversupply of cotton and lower-than-usual demand have brought bad news for Lubbock County, where a quarter of the economy is tied to the cotton industry. Because of the dip in prices, many farmers are struggling to break even and are lucky to make a profit.

Mary Jane Buerkle, director of communications at Plains Cotton Growers, which represents about 5,000 cotton producers within about 40 counties in the Texas High Plains, grew up on a cotton-and-peanut farm in Rochester, Texas.

She said the low prices on many crops produced in the Texas High Plains have affected farmers, suppliers, manufacturers, and the entire Lubbock community and surrounding areas.

“The last few years have not been easy for agricultural, and it’s still not easy,” Buerkle said. “It affects everybody all throughout the chain.”

Although some years can be challenging for cotton farmers, and the risks are many, the rewards are great, too.

Long-time Lubbock cotton farmer Doug Hlavaty and his brother operate on the farm that their grandfather settled on in 1920. Hlavaty’s dad was also a farmer, and Hlavaty worked for his dad on the farm part-time until he graduated from Texas Tech in 1976 with an agronomy degree.

Doug and his wife, Valerie Hlavaty, have three children—ages 26, 31 and 34. Their children used to be paid part-time to work on the farm, and some of their friends were part-time employees, too.

Valerie Hlavaty said when her children were home, they enjoyed activities such as four-wheeling and dove hunting, which friends living in the city were not able to do. Although the Hlavatys work “sun up to sun down” during much of the year, she said, they cannot imagine trading their lot for city living.

Watch the video story below to learn more about the life of Lubbock cotton farmers.

This story is part of a series by Victoria Holloway about how farming and planting affect the Lubbock community. Look for more stories in the next two months.

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