My meeting with Mark and Joe Yeager was supposed to be about their Fall plans for Red Land Farms. You know, questions like, what are you working on now? When will you begin picking cotton?
But, I quickly found myself asking these two brothers more. I realized these guys answered my farm questions effortlessly because they knew from experience…from years of working alongside their father, Mark Yeager, Sr., the co-founder of Red Land Cotton. Their answers didn’t come from textbooks; they came from life.
So, y’all, this post is about the Fall happenings at the farm while highlighting two hard-working Americans who help make this whole bedding-and-towel thing happen for Red Land Cotton.
We are so thankful for them!
Corn Comes First
Am I the only one surprised to learn that their first order of business in September was to pick corn?! I was anxious to talk about cotton, but Mark was quick to remind me that corn comes first.
See, many farmers diversify crops for the same reason we diversify stocks. (Ya know…don’t put all your eggs in one basket.) By planting corn and then harvesting it, Red Land Farms has another revenue stream, a necessity in the farming business where most of your success depends on the weather and the economic strength of specific crops. Y’aaaaallll, these are two things definitely out of our control! So, diversifying it is!
And FYI, Red Land Farms has over 400 beef cattle. Prior to harvesting corn, Joe and Mark had worked hard baling hay for winter feeding.
So, to answer a question, Mark and Joe are often asked, “Do you guys just plant cotton?” They respond with a firm, "No." :)
4400 Acres of Cotton
They admit that Red Land Farms is best known for its COTTON, primarily because Mark Yeager, Sr. has always had his mind on the next innovation.
That’s why he started his own gin company in the 1990s. And that's why when a family member commented 3 years ago on Instagram that she would love sheets made from that beautiful crop, he and his daughter Anna founded Red Land Cotton.
Our cotton is more prominent than our cows and corn, and we're good with that. But they know that all of it comes together to make Red Land Farms, the backbone of Red Land Cotton's heirloom-inspired linens and two-ply woven towels.
The Modern Technology of Picking Cotton
Starting in mid-September, you’ll find Joe and Mark out in the 4400 acres of cotton that have been planted this year. They’ll be driving huge roll pickers that harvest and bundle the cotton into round “modules.”
The modern-day cotton pickers make this time-consuming work much, much easier. They come, though, with a hefty price tag and lots of necessary maintenance. Because of their many sensors and moving parts and the obligatory cotton fluff, they can be finicky.
In fact, Red Land Farms often designates one person through the picking season as the maintenance and supply guy. His sole purpose is not to pick cotton but to fix any broke-down roll picker so it can get back moving ASAP.
In the Field Today
One of Mark Jr's earliest memories at Red Land Farms was looking out over a cotton field being picked. He remembers the machinery traveling up and down the rows but mostly all the people following behind the module builder. These people were paid to scoop up any cotton left behind by the picker or tossed out of the module builder.
See, 20 years ago when Mark Jr. was young, the module builder was separate from the picker. To form cotton into bundles, the picker shot cotton into the module builder where people worked presses to stamp down the cotton, and others walked alongside the picker gathering loose cotton. Picture stuffing as much cotton as possible into a cardboard box.
Today, though, roll pickers are much more efficient than picking machines 20 years ago. They leave less cotton behind, and round modules are built within the roll picker itself (no need for a separate machine) and dropped out when finished.
In most fields now, there are only seven or eight people working. Usually, two or three people are driving roll pickers, and one is driving a tractor loading the round cotton modules onto large truck beds. There is one maintenance guy and two diesel truck drivers who will transport cotton to the gin.
Goals for the Fall
By the time this article is published, Mark and Joe will be finished harvesting corn and will be working in the cotton fields…or, at least, readying those pesky, yet marvelous roll pickers.
It will take these guys and their crew about 2 months to finish picking all 4400 acres. On a good day – weather and machines cooperating – they can expect to harvest around 90 acres per roll picker. Of course, good days don’t happen every day. :)
Their biggest goal each year is to have most of the cotton harvested before the first frost because it can affect the quality of the crop. This mission is what drives long days and even nights - sometimes all-nighters - during picking season.
While Joe used to skip school to drive the combine - and, of course, we don't condone this practice :) we do love that someone this dedicated to farming is driving the tractors of Red Land Farms and making decisions for future plantings.
It’s people like Joe, Mark, and Mark, Sr. that keep farming alive in America. They’re proud to put in 13-hour days (and often more), 7 days a week during the cotton season. It’s a rush for them to see a field finished and to know their product is needed and enjoyed by others.
And, it's our joy to share their hard work through our bedding and towels at Red Land Cotton.
If you are ever in Moulton, AL, visit our store - 558 Lawrence Street, Moulton, AL 35650. We'd love to see you!
And, of course, feel free to shop online with us. :)
By: Rachel Eubanks, a girl blessed with a small-town Alabama raising. She grew a deep appreciation for farming as she watched her father, an extension agent, work alongside farmers for over 30 years. She now lives outside of Huntsville, AL.