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Parker Brothers Farms
Products Raised or Grown: Cotton
Size of Operation: 7,000 acres
Years in Business: 41
Farm Credit Partner: Progressive Farm Credit Services
Years Working with Farm Credit: 38
Twin brothers Wade and Wayne Parker have grown and harvested cotton for more than 40 years, following in their father’s footsteps first as sharecroppers and then as custom harvesters. Today, the brothers raise their crop on 7,000 acres of leased and owned Missouri farmland.
The Parkers started relatively small back in 1967, renting just 550 acres of land. Soon after, they also took over management of their father’s custom cotton picking operation, a labor-intensive business that took them to the cotton fields of Texas. There they worked seventeen-hour days to bring in the harvest, shipping their picking equipment by rail each year from their Missouri home. Pickers weren’t all that made the trip to Texas, as both families joined the caravan, inspiring the next generation to join the cotton trade: Wade’s sons, Steve and Ricky; and Wayne’s son, Danny, drove cotton pickers as soon as they were old enough, and today they each farm their own cotton crop.
Parker Brothers Farms continued to grow alongside the custom harvesting business, and after 25 years, it became large enough that Wade and Wayne passed the harvesting business on to their sons, taking the expertise they’d acquired and applying it to their own cotton farm. Those sons also have their own farms, with Danny also serving as foreman for Parker Brothers Farms.
That farm has grown to its current size in large part because the Parkers have embraced advances in technology. “They’re always trying to be more efficient,” says Chad Crow, the Parker’s relationship manager at Progressive Farm Credit Services. The one-row pickers the brothers started with were replaced with two-row, then four-row, then six-row pickers. The brothers also introduced Missouri cotton growers to the module approach to harvesting they’d encountered in Texas, a process that creates large, formed blocks of cotton in the field rather than collecting loose cotton bolls in trailers to be hauled to the gin.
Today, while module picking is still the predominant harvesting approach, the Parkers have moved on to the next advancement, baler-pickers, which create round bales of plastic-wrapped cotton directly in the field. This approach reduces waste and improves the quality of the cotton arriving at the gin, where it’s cleaned and sent on to be turned into fabric for clothing, towels, sheets or any number of other things.
As important as technology is to the Parker’s success, another key is their character. “They’re just good, honest people with integrity, so landlords want to rent their land to them,” Chad says. “Of course, they’re not afraid to work hard, either.”