Career Spotlight: Careers in Cotton

Subscribe to AgGrad on YouTube!

From using its lent to make clothing and money to utilizing its seed for oil, cotton and its byproducts have become one of the most versatile agriculture commodities in the world. There is no wondering why the cotton industry is flourishing with jobs, including some in communications.

Clothing the world

Meet Mary Jane Short Buerkle, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. in Lubbock, Texas. Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. is a commodity association that represents growers in 41 counties in the Texas Panhandle, High Plains and South Plains. The organization’s members grow approximately two-thirds of Texas’ cotton crop, a third of the United States’ cotton crop and anywhere from three to five percent of the world’s cotton crop depending on the year.

As an employee of Plains Cotton Growers, Mary Jane handles legislative and regulatory matters on behalf of the association’s constituents in order for them to have the best opportunities they can to be profitable.

“We do some local research and promotion initiatives,” Mary Jane said. “We partner with the rest of our industry, public and private. We build relationships. We spend a lot of time in Washington D.C. and in Austin at the state level making sure that our growers have effective representation.”

The organization is not a Checkoff, but is instead funded by its member cotton gins.

Cotton within the Plains Cotton Growers’ area can undergo several processes after it is harvested. After farmers harvest the cotton, it is taken to a cotton gin where the lent is separated from the seed. The lent is put into cotton bales — which weigh approximately 500 pounds each — and is sent to a textile mill. The seed can be crushed to produce oil or used whole in livestock feed.

The career opportunities within the cotton industry are endless. You can work in the gin, in policy, in sales or even in merchandising.  

Developing a network

Mary Jane began growing her network, which eventually helped her land her current job, in an unconventional way during her time at Texas Tech University.

“I remember looking in the newspaper and answering an ad for a newsroom clerk at the Lubbock Avalanche Journal,” she said. “The ad was not really specific about what all you would be doing so I went and applied, and little did I know that part of the job was going to be to writing obituaries.”

Although it was not her dream position, Mary Jane believes the job afforded her with an incredible learning experience and networking opportunity.

“It taught me that attention to detail is so important because you have that one opportunity to sum up a persons life and it better be right,” she said. “It was unconventional but it was a really, really neat start.”

The position allowed Mary Jane to move up into an agriculture reporter role, which then gave her the opportunity to network with employees of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. Those connections set her up to work for both organizations.

Successfully working remotely

In her position at Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., Mary Jane has the ability to work remotely from her home. Here are three traits she believes people should posses to successfully work in a remote environment.

  1.     Self-starter — Be able to make yourself get started on tasks that have to get done.
  2.     Organized — Be able to keep yourself organized in order to prioritize what needs to get done.
  3.     Manage your time well — Be able to stay on task to complete a project in a timely manner.

“There are some many different things puling you — regardless if you’re in the office or in a home office — but it seems like there are more temptations when you’re at home,” Mary Jane said. “It really takes a good amount of focus, but the trade off is flexibility.”

Follow Mary Jane on Twitter: @mjbuerkle

Subscribe to the AgGrad YouTube Channel to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture, and follow us online:


Snapchat: @AgGrad

Twitter: @AgGradNation

Facebook Page:

Facebook Group:



Alex Lowery