It's been a while since I wrote on this thing...guess the novelty of having a blog is wearing off, but I won't let this thing become a thing of the past. My only excuse is that things have been super hectic. Lately the biggest change has been, I've left Boston for Houston. My first year of grad school is over and it was a good year. I now have 3 months to do one of my favorite things, reflect on my experiences to learn how I've changed. For now, I've attached a photo of the budding warmth of Boston that I've left behind. Finally the weather got better in the city and I could enjoy it, but I had to leave. Eh, that is life....
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Yesterday I read this article from the NY Times about Mississippi farmers trading in cotton for corn and soybeans, more profitable crops these days. Sadly the economy is changing the face of the delta region. Cotton buds have been the beautiful backdrop of the region for years and some people are pleading with farmers to keep planting cotton along roadsides because its prettier than corn. The article states that the global consumption of cotton is dropping and exports are expected to drop by $1.2 million this year. Textile mills are going abroad and as cotton farmer Walter Reese Pillow IV states, "its not very smart to think we can grow the commodity hear so they can make a shirt in China." The effect has been greatest in Mississippi where the acreage has dropped from 1.2 million acres in 2006 to 365,000 in 2008. The drop in acreage means gins have to be closed resulting in a slew of laid of workers. Cotton isn't just a crop, but has deep roots in the south, contributing to major themes for blues musicians and authors. However, cotton's history in the south is not filled with positive images. Picking cotton by hand, before the arrival of machines, was a backbreaking job done by slaves and later poor farmers; a major reason some in Mississippi are not so nostalgic to see the cotton go.
I've been to the delta region numerous times because my aunt and cousins live there. My recent trip was in December when bits of cotton on the roadside remained. I took the photo of the cotton right after we visited an Alpaca farm, another new industry spreading in the south. Alpaca farming has been present in the south for about 10 years, but is gaining ground as another source of income. I put together the faces of the different Alpaca at a farm my cousins took me to. It was closed when we went, but we were still able to see them. Their smiles make me smile. But alas, they won't save the cotton industry in this country.
Jason Colquett owns a cotton gin where he has had to cut his staff and ginning season in half. Sadly he states, “I can imagine Mississippi without cotton gins. It’s not a pretty picture.” Despite the cruel history of the crop, I'll miss seeing it's abundance next time I'm in Mississippi.