If there are cotton fields in your region, this is the time of year when farmers are about ready to harvest. Since cotton is a very important money crop in Texas, now is a great time to call your student’s attention to several aspects of the agricultural industry.
- As you drive past fields, watch the bolls swell, pop open, and turn brown. If you are fortunate enough to see harvesting in progress, pull over (if it’s safe) and watch a while!
- If you live in an area where irrigation is necessary, talk about how those systems work, the expense of setting them up, and the ingenuity it took to make the deserts bloom!
- If you know someone who raises cotton, see if they would allow your family to stand in a safe area and watch as they harvest. We did this one year, and I was amazed to see the bulk of cotton collected on each run. I visualized the amount harvested from one small field and multiplied it by the vast acerage in Texas…and I could hardly wrap my mind around it.
- For another surprisingly wonderful field trip, try calling a cotton gin in your area. We found one that was most accomodating and very proud to show us all that is done with cotton–the ginning process, how they save and sell the culled seeds for feed, why they usually do not sell the seed as seed, and how they compost the byproducts of the process to make a rich mulch.
If you already missed the harvest in your area, all is not lost. Pick up a few of the bolls that invariably fall off the trucks and drift along the highway. My father did this to keep us occupied in the car on the way to my grandmothers’ houses. For hours my sister and I would “do it the old-timey way”, picking out seeds and spinning yarn between our fingers. It was easy for me to understand how many hands were needed to do the work and why the South feared that the sudden abolition of slavery would bring economic ruin.
Side note–My father-in-law insists that picking cotton causes men’s hair to fall out. He grew up picking cotton like every boy in his community, and he says every cotton-pickin’ one of them is now bald! 🙂