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- Starting from scratch in the cotton business was a tough row to hoe for St. Matthews, S.C., grower Kendall W. (Kent) Wannamaker.
- But, today he and his wife, Mary Lil, own and operate a thriving cotton, peanut, and corn farming operation, and he is a recognized leader in the cotton industry.
GETTING DEFOLIATION just right is always a challenge, says 2012 High Cotton winner Kent Wannamaker.
Doesn’t cover costs
However, he says, recouping the maximum amount from a crop failure — typically 75 percent of crop value — only allows a farmer to keep farming; it doesn’t cover his costs.
Over the years, Wannamaker has developed a marketing strategy that helps him to reduce some of the risk in farming. For the past few years, he has subscribed to Pinnacle Marketing Service, which provides key marketing information that allows him do a limited amount of hedging of his crops. He forward contracts his cotton, or sells it on recaps after the crop is ginned, which has helped him get optimum prices.
Seven years ago, he switched to strip-tillage on all his cotton land and says the change has been amazing — dramatically increasing water infiltration and reducing water runoff and erosion.
“I used to need diversions and terraces,” he says, “but I don’t any more, unless we get 3-4 inches of rain at once. We have about 900 acres of irrigation, and even on that land, we can tell the difference from strip-tillage.”
From his earliest days in farming, Wannamaker has been a good steward of the land. He was named South Carolina Conservationist of the Year in 2004, and currently serves as a commissioner with the Calhoun County Soil and Water Conservation District.
In 2008, he was named South Carolina Farmer of the Year by Swisher International. He currently serves as an officer on the Southern Cotton Growers Inc. board and is a delegate to the National Cotton Council.
In giving back to his community, he has served for many years on the Calhoun County Clemson Extension Advisory Committee and on the administrative board of St. Paul United Methodist Church in St. Matthews.
He and Mary Lil have a daughter, Lindsey, who works with AFLAC insurance company in Columbia, S.C., and a son, Kendall, who is in his first year of medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
“When I went out on my own in farming in 1985, it was a scary thing,” Wannamaker says. “I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by good friends and good people to help in the day-to-day operation of our farming business, and it has all worked out well.”