John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.
The day starts early at the farm in Greenville for Michael and Earlene Roland. Feeding the cows and making an itinerary of the day is a top priority for all who work at Roland Farms. A practice that has been going on for 33 years, since Michael and Earline Roland married, is still going strong today; but Michael didn't start farming when he married. Those roots went back to his teenage years on his parents' farm; the farm of Charles and Jo Ann Roland, where he learned how to drive a tractor and where the Roland family still works today.
The Rolands have planted, grown and harvested cotton, peanuts, corn and soy beans. The Rolands also run a cattle operation. This time of year is when the last of their cotton crops are harvested.
The earliest record of cotton farming is dated back to between 6000 B.C. and 5000 B.C., in the Indian subcontinent. The area known as the southern plains of the United States produces the most cotton. Cotton is used to make numerous items such as robes, towels, denim jeans, socks, t-shirts, etc. Cotton is also used in fishing nets, coffee filters and bookbinding.
The process of growing and keeping up with cotton requires a long, frost-free period and plenty of sunshine. An average amount of rainfall is required as well. Planting time is normally in the spring but varies from March to June. Throughout the life of cotton crops, the cotton industry relies on chemicals such as herbicides, fertilizers and insecticides to reduce pests and weeds and keep the crop healthy.
Harvesting cotton was originally done by hand but the amount of time it took was ludicrous. Picking begins after lunch, when the morning dew dries, and the Rolands and workers harvest until dusk. The Rolands operate a cotton picker, a large machine that automates cotton harvesting and reduces harvest times. Using a cotton picker is important for time efficiency.
Haley Roland Kauffman, daughter of Michael and Earlene Roland operates the boll buggy. The boll buggy is used to gather all cotton to be put into the module builders. The cotton is then taken to the module maker run by William Martin, a retired state worker. Aiden Roland, Kauffman's son, calls the module maker the “smasher.” Once the cotton is baled, it is then sent off to B.C.T. Gin in Quitman, Ga.
Three generations of farmers are currently in the family business. Charles Roland began Roland and Sons' with both of his sons, Michael and Shane working in the fields. Haley also has one son, Aiden Roland, who is learning the family business.
Not often do you see generational farming anymore, but the Roland family takes pride in their work. Day-in and day-out, you can find the Roland's picking cotton, peanuts, or soy beans to send off to a different company to be used for a specific purpose. Who knows? You might be wearing some of the Roland's cotton.