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Conservation methods can add to farmers’ bottom lines

Mid-South winner stresses a grower's ability to be sustainable while also profitable.

Steve Stevens says implementing conservation practices on his Discovery Farm near Tillar, Ark., not only has shown he and his employees can grow cotton more sustainably, but it’s also shown they can grow it more cheaply.

“A thing we have proven in this project is that not only can we grow it more sustainably, but we can do it for 6 cents a pound cheaper than with conventional farming,” said Stevens, the 2019 winner of the High Cotton Award for the Mid-South Region.

“I think that’s an important point to get out to growers – that we can be sustainable, and we can still make money,” he said, while accepting the bronze Cotton Boll Award given to winners of the High Cotton Awards, presented annually by Farm Press Publications through a grant to The Cotton Foundation.”

Arkansas Discovery Farms are privately-owned operations on which University of Arkansas researchers conduct water quality trials. The goal is to determine the effectiveness of soil and water conservation practices on working farms.

“Steve Stevens is a Southern gentleman, a pilot, a traveler and a dang good cotton farmer who is plowing new ground – or maybe, more accurately, not plowing it so much – to improve soil and water conservation,” said Ron Smith, senior content director for Farm Press.

Smith said Stevens – reluctantly at first – agreed to turn several acres of cotton into a Discovery Farm. As a result, farmers throughout Arkansas are learning more about moisture retention and reducing the nutrient load in runoff into the state’s streams.

Stevens becomes one of 106 cotton farmers who have received the High Cotton Award since the program’s inception in 1994. The awards are now presented at a breakfast at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis, Tenn.

To learn more about the award, visit

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