Cannon Farms keep cotton part of the family businessPublished 8:52am Friday, August 22, 2014
By Savannah Harrison / Outlook Staff Writer
Those familiar with the cotton market know that prices have fluctuated this summer, but father and son farmers Doug and Mark Cannon have remained strong, producing 510 acres of what the elder Cannon refers to as “some of the best cotton we’ve had this year.”
“If everything turns out, it looks super,” Doug said. “I believe it’s going to be the best crop we’ve ever grown.”
This is, in part, due to weather conditions, which can make or break a crop. Doug said that a half-inch to an inch of rain every two weeks is needed in order to produce good cotton, and that’s about what Cannon Farms, which is located on Alabama Highway 120 in Notasulga, has received.
“We try to do everything we need to do to make a good crop, and the rest of it is just left up to the good Lord,” the farmer of some 45 years added. “He’s got to send us the rain.”
While the Cannons have approximately 800 acres of planted crop this summer — split between cotton and soybeans —the farm started in a very different place.
“I didn’t take over (the farm),” Doug said. “We just started growing. I started farming when I was 20, but I only had cows.”
Over time, Cannon began planting a variety of crops such as cotton, soybeans, wheat and Bermuda grass.
The elder Cannon didn’t go into the farming industry without any prior experience, however, as he recalls working on his father’s farm when he was a young man.
“I farmed when I was at home and growing up,” he remembered. “My dad used to have mules. We used to plow mules and raise cotton.”
So it makes sense that his own son, Mark, wanted to go into business with his father when he came of age.
“He was going to Auburn University,” Doug said. “He finished two, three years in college, and he came home one day and told me, ‘I don’t want to finish, dad. I want to start farming. My heart ain’t in it anymore.’”
Doug entered into a partnership with his son shortly after, and the two have been in business together for the past 22 years.
One thing’s certain: the duo doesn’t lack in passion or dedication. Alongside their six employees, Doug and Mark work long hours to ensure the upkeep of their sprawling farm.
“A lot of planning and a lot of money and a lot of long hours (go into maintaining the farm),” Mark said. “We’re kind of scattered — we have cows about 20 miles from our house and we have some crop laying as far as 35 miles from our home, and it just takes a lot of time to get over and keep a check on everything.”
In fact, during a phone interview on Aug. 12, Doug mentioned that they were busy spraying the field with growth regulator, fertilizer and insecticide that day.
Both father and son agree the work they’re doing requires a lot of love.
“I mean, you’ve got to love it to do it,” Mark explained. “The weather’s not always in your favor, and it’s just an occupation you have to love to do because of the hours and all of the hard work that goes into it.”
Similarly, Doug said he’d always enjoyed raising cotton, in part because he likes to watch it grow and produce, but that he “like(s) to make money with it, too.” And with cotton trading for around 62 cents in the December market, this may be difficult to do.
According to Carla Hornady, the director of cotton, soybeans, wheat and feed grains with the Alabama Farmers Federation, two events play a key role in the decrease of cotton prices.
“It started going down when China revealed that they had several bales in stockpile,” Hornady said. “(And continued) dipping right after Memorial Day because of the rains in Texas.”
Hornady explained that the rains in Texas, which are resulting in excellent crops in the Lone Star state, are also affecting the corn market.
And the market is something the Cannons are keeping a close eye on.
“I looked at the market this morning, and it’s been coming off every week since June,” Doug said. “It’ll drop some and go up and drop some. To tell you the truth, I’m worried about it getting lower. I hope it doesn’t.”
“We make enough that (cotton’s) worth growing but, if it got down to where we weren’t making money, I wouldn’t plant it,” he added. “But we’ve always come out on it.”