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- On a warm, cloudless, day last October, Coley Bailey Sr. opened the door of the tractor driven by his son, Coley Jr. and over the radio chatter and whine of machinery, announced, “We’re processing 1,100 pounds of seed cotton a minute.”
- Efficiency is such an overused word in agriculture these days, one hesitates to use it to describe Coffeeville, Miss., farmer Coley Bailey Jr.
The cotton field behind Coley Bailey, Sr., and Coley Bailey, Jr., was once farmed by James K. Polk, the country's 11th president.
Challenges of young farmers
“We don’t work on Sundays,” Coley Jr. says. “But, we’re always able to get it all done. When you work 15 hours a day during the week, you need to have some rest on Sunday.”
In the coming season, the Baileys will replace their three 6-row basket pickers with two 6-row module pickers, which should reduce seasonal labor needs and make harvest move even faster.
“I think we can pick cotton with a basket picker as efficiently as anybody I know,” Coley Jr. says. “In good cotton, we can tarp a module every 20 minutes, and build 24 modules a day.”
He uses module size to regulate the influence of yield fluctuation on picking efficiency. As yields increase, the size of a finished module may decrease to accommodate the increased number of boll buggy dumps.
“Our KBH builders with extended rails are capable of building 18-19 bale modules every time,” he says. “We average 16 bales.
“If we had more time, we could keep packing, but the gin doesn’t charge me to come get the modules, so our main goal is to keep the picker going so it doesn’t have to wait on a buggy. We can do that up to about 1,200-pound cotton. If I get much over 1,200 pound cotton, we have to go to 13-bale or 14-bale modules — but, that’s a good problem to have.”
Coley Bailey, Sr., says young farmers like his son face more challenges than previous generations.
“My father managed people, I managed machines, and my son manages technology. But, managing technology doesn’t relieve him from the obligation of managing machines and people too.”
Coley, Jr.’s ability to network is perhaps the best tool he has for facing today’s challenges, his father says.
“He’s a great networker. There is a network of young farmers around who are more willing to share information and ideas than in my generation. He and his wife, Jody, who is a strong part of his partnership, are very attuned to that — more so than I ever was.”
No matter what the yield, time of season or field activity, everyone on the Bailey farming operation is aware of the one rule that guides all activity on the farm — making those pickers turn around.
It’s a philosophy that has served them well.
Coley Jr. has served as chairman of Farm Bureau’s Cotton Committee for four years, and is president of Yalobusha County Farm Bureau. He and Jody have two children, a son, Cole, and a daughter, Mackenzie. Jody, who grew up on a cattle farm, works on the Mississippi Farm Bureau Women’s Committee.