By Mike Banta
I’m the son and grandson of Texas cotton farmers.
Combining their years of farming, my dad and granddad raised cotton in West Texas for 131 years. 131 years.
Farming the land, and nurturing it so it could provide for their families, defined their lives. Their lifelong work and values are also the foundational heritage of my family.
And both my dad and granddad had a saying: Leave the land better than you found it.
It’s been seven years now since my dad passed on. And I feel like I’ve listened to his voice, and remembered his advice.
After my brother, sister and I inherited my dad’s acreage in Andrews County, Texas, we decided to put it in the federal Conservation Resources Program, which removes the land from farming to help restore its environmental health. And then, in 2017, we made another decision that has helped the land even more: we partnered with ENGIE U.S. Wind to put wind turbines on the land.
And I’ve never felt so good about a decision.
There are now 14 wind turbines on the 3,600 acres my dad used to farm. There are another two turbines on an adjacent 620 acres owned by my brother.
The turbines actually take up only a very small portion of the land. They don’t bother the wildlife that has begun to return — the mule deer, the coyotes, the badgers, the porcupines. But the turbines are doing a whole lot of good — providing clean power to my community, to Texas and to the entire nation.
I remember the first time my brother and I met with the ENGIE representative — Bob Baur — about possibly putting windmills (that’s still what I sometimes call them) on our land. Bob was very straight with us. He didn’t over promise anything. He just told us the facts. And everything he told us has come to pass.
I also remember the first time he used the term for these turbine sites. “Wind farms,” he called them.
I liked that. My family have always been farmers. Now we’re just farming a different crop. We’re no longer farming cotton; we’re farming wind. And there’s more than enough of that around West Texas, of course.
I ended up not following my granddad and dad into the cotton fields. After high school, I got drafted into the Army, and was sent to South Korea. When I returned home, I went to college on the G.I. bill and became a banker and stockbroker — for 41 years before I retired.
But I’ve always remembered my dad’s and granddad’s values. And my experience now — helping to care for this land — has helped me remember those values even more.
It was important to them to be good stewards of the land. To be a caretaker, not a taker.
And to use the tools given to us to make something better.
I think we’re doing all of that with my family’s lands now.
We’re helping to produce clean electricity for our community and the nation. We’re helping to bring real economic development to our county, with the tax and other payments ENGIE provides. We’re using some of the funds from leasing our land to establish an art student scholarship at Lubbock Christian University. And we’ll also use the funds to help educate our grandchildren.
My granddad and dad only knew cotton farming — that’s all they wanted to do. But if my dad could see what’s happening to our family land now, I think he’d approve. In fact, I think he’d love it. And be proud.