By: Mollie Lastovica
Thomas Wynn, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications graduate student, was recently named the 2012 Cotton Marketer of the Year. Sponsored by Cotton Grower magazine, the New York Cotton Exchange and Bayer CropScience’s Certified FiberMax program, the award recognizes a United States cotton producer for his or her excellence in a marketing program.
“There are probably half a dozen people who are just as qualified or more qualified than me to receive this award,” Wynn humbly said. “I am honored that they selected me this time and I hope I can uphold the traditions and legacies that the award entails. I have always considered myself to be rather goal-oriented. This is a note to me that I am doing it the right way. It was very unexpected.”
Wynn is not only completing his Ph.D. through the ALEC Department, he is also working full-time as the Chief of Operations for his family’s farm in Egypt, Texas. M&W Farm and Ranch has been owned and operated by Wynn’s family since the 1800’s.
He graduated with both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Department of Agricultural Economics and went to work for the U.S. rice industry traveling to developing countries to market U.S. rice. Wynn always hoped to pursue a doctoral degree and has been able to do just that while still running the farm.
“My goals are to keep the family farm going, but with the technologies we have today at our disposal, it is not necessarily something you have to do full-time,” Wynn said. “I always knew I wanted to come back for my Ph.D. and after spending time overseas I wanted something tailored to working with marketing and international agriculture.”
After meeting with ALEC faculty members, he opted to pursue a doctoral program in the department focusing on agricultural development and disseminating information about new ideas and technologies in agriculture to developing countries. Since beginning his Ph.D. program in 2011, Wynn has enjoyed exploring new avenues of education and research.
“I have done a lot of quantitative analysis but never experienced social science research before,” Wynn said. “I have had great exposure to social science research. My experiences in ALEC have opened my eyes to theory and practices and I think I am a more effective professional as a result of the people I have met, the atmosphere and the broad range of exposure the department provides.”
The social science experiences he refers to will undoubtedly aid him as he continues to run the family farm.
“Working on the farm, you have to be able to work with people,” Wynn said. “The ability to understand social aspects is critical to understanding issues that arise.”
In reference to the marketing practices that his award recognized, Wynn believes that focusing on risk-management is key. Since taking over the marketing decisions for his operation in 2012, the farm has adopted several progressive marketing techniques.
“Agriculture is a risky industry with high cost, low returns and thin margins for profit,” Wynn said. “My goal is to increase those margins by handling risks ahead of time.”
Wynn plans to utilize his focus on and expertise in risk management after he graduates to expand his work as a professional agricultural marketing consultant. While he has been doing some consulting on the side of school and farming, he would like to increase that business and work with producers internationally.
“I would hope that my legacy is to have been successful,” Wynn said. “In production agriculture, success is a defining feat in and of itself. I also want to be known as an educator … someone who facilitated change.”
He believes that education is essential for fulfilling those dreams.
“I have never heard of anyone getting fired for too much education,” Wynn said. “The more you are aware of what’s out there in terms of technology and techniques, the better you will do. Education provides that knowledge. As fast as the world changes today, not having the knowledge that education gives you puts you at a severe disadvantage in anything you do.”
An additional story on Wynn’s distinction as the 2012 Cotton Grower Marketer of the Year can be found in the February 2013 issue of Cotton Grower magazine.