Clyde Sharp celebrated his 70th birthday last September — but it wasn’t a traditional birthday with cake and candles, sitting around a table with his family on their farm in Roll, Ariz.

Rather, he sat at a conference table in Jakarta, Indonesia, with a group of U.S. cotton leaders, discussing with Asian manufacturers the attributes of high quality American-grown fiber.

Sacrificing a milestone birthday celebration is just another example of Sharp’s exemplary dedication, sacrifice, and leadership on behalf of the U.S. cotton industry.

For that service to cotton and agriculture as a whole — plus the fact he’s a top-notch cotton grower and steward of the land — Clyde Sharp has been named the Far West Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton award winner for 2014.

“I am very thankful for this recognition,” Sharps says, pointing out the award is really a recognition for his family.

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Clyde and his brother David, third-generation Arizona farmers, own and operate Lyreedale Farms with their wives, Vicky and Melissa, respectively. Clyde and Vicky have three daughters — Kayla, Holly, and Kelly.

Clyde, who has farmed for 50 years, was nominated for the High Cotton award by Arizona Cotton Growers Association Executive Director Rick Lavis.

“Clyde is not afraid of a challenge, and works hard to achieve the desired end result,” Lavis says. “He approaches a problem with zeal. His is a rare kind of leadership.”

The Sharp's farm is in the arid Arizona low desert, about 250 feet above sea level about 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Annual rainfall totals a mere 2.5 inches. A combination of surface water irrigation and the desert heat create excellent conditions for growing quality cotton with good yields.

“This is an absolutely great area for farming and growing,” says Sharp, whose family has grown Upland cotton for 25 years.

In 2013, they farmed 2,500 acres of cotton (fiber and seed), alfalfa, and wheat, plus Sudangrass and onions for seed in Yuma County. Cotton is a rotation crop with winter vegetables.

This area is the nation’s winter produce epicenter — its winter vegetable capital. About 80 percent of the vegetables consumed in the U.S. during the winter months come from Yuma County and neighboring Imperial County, Calif., to the west.

The demand for produce acreage fluctuates from year to year, tied to market demand. This determines whether the Sharps will grow early- or mid-season cotton. Last year, the demand for winter produce ground was so strong they grew short-season cotton, which meant sacrificing the top crop.