Mike has increased furrow irrigation and cut back on center
pivot irrigation. Older pivots were not designed to efficiently
irrigate corn, he says, and furrow irrigation is more practical
because of better drainage, reduced runoff, and precision land
One of his equipment innovations is a Deere cultivator that has
been modified with curved shovels between rows to apply liquid
As a young child, Mike remembers driving an old Ford tractor
to bring water and ice to workers chopping weeds in cotton. While
still in Harvard graduate school, he started farming on his own
near Cruger, Miss., but later sold that operation to join in farming
the family’s land near Glendora.
To market cotton, Sturdivant relies on the Staple Cotton
Cooperative Association, better known as Staplcotn. His great
grandfather was a Staplcotn founder in 1921. Sturdivant likes the
cooperative’s pooling, which allows growers to combine their
cotton with others for sales to mills throughout the year.
Grain marketing is improved because the farm has storage
capacity of 1.6 million bushels. “Before we started growing
corn, we didn’t have storage, so we bought an existing elevator,”
Mike says. Area poultry operations buy most of the corn, while
soybeans are marketed through other local elevators.
He has recently begun using spreadsheets and mapping
software to track farming practices for individual tracts.
Data generated can be shared with fertilizer suppliers, aerial
applicators, farm managers, irrigation services, GPS providers, and
He has worked to make the farm more efficient, including
switching from 8-row to 12-row equipment, and adding precision
farming technology. He says vertical integration provided by the
grain elevator, flying service, and cotton gin help add profitability
to the farming operation.
Conservation is important to Sturdivant, and he uses
conservation tillage on a small scale. He relies on precision land
leveling and has installed tailwater recovery projects. “We are
able to capture runoff and then to reuse the water in our fields,”
he says. He uses Pipe Planner software to make furrow irrigation
more efficient, and has built holding ponds for irrigation and to
He has established conservation easements with the Delta
Wildlife organization, and his farm is a member of Delta F.A.R.M.
(Delta Farmers Advocating Resource Management). He has also
participated in a state game management program and a bee
He says he depends on Martha Ann Clark, his office manager,
and Larry Smith, his farm manager, as well as his brother’s son-in-law, Gary Dyksterhouse, who helps run the family’s grain
Sturdivant has been a strong supporter of the Pillow Academy
college preparatory school. He is past president of the Greater
Greenwood Foundation of the Arts and a past chairman of the
Farmers Supply Cooperative of Greenwood.
He is a past chairman of Delta Purchasing, chairman of the
Staple Cotton Cooperative and Staple Discount, serves as an
appointed member of the Greenwood-Leflore Airport Board,
is a past director of SF Service, Inc., of Little Rock, Ark., a past
executive board member of the Chickasaw Council of the Boy
Scouts, and a graduate of Leadership Mississippi.
He has presented information to the Mississippi State Short
Course Conference, the Cotton & Rice Conference, and the
Southern Field Crop Alliance Conference.
Sturdivant is a past president and chairman of the Delta
Council, an economic development organization serving 18
counties in the Mississippi Delta, and is a member of the board of
trustees at Millsaps College.
Nationally, he was a board member of the Cotton Board, a
past member of the National Cotton Council’s Cotton Leadership
Program, past chairman and director of the Memphis Branch of
the St. Louis District Federal Reserve Bank, and a cooperative
delegate to the National Cotton Council. He also co-chairs a
section of the annual fund for the Harvard Business School.
Mike and his wife, Jan, have been active in First Presbyterian
Church of Greenwood. Jan is a co-founder, past treasurer, and
instructor for Yazoo Pony Club, is a Certified Horsemanship
Association instructor, and is a U.S. Pony Club district
commissioner. She is a founder of, and for 13 years coordinated,
the Jon D. Williams Delta Cotillion that trains young people in
social skills and dance education. She is also an equestrian helmet
safety activist, and has worked with Mississippi Extension to
educate 4-H members on helmet safety.
Mike and Jan have two adult children, son Micajah, who works
in the family’s hotel and motel property management firm, and
daughter Lee, a yoga instructor in her own studio.
Steve Martin with Mississippi Extension Service coordinates the
Farmer of the Year award in the state. Sturdivant was nominated
for the honor by Jimbo Burkhalter, Extension agent in Tallahatchie
Burkhalter says he admires Sturdivant’s use of research
information. “I see Mike at meetings that good farmers attend —
he’s constantly learning and putting that knowledge to work.”
Sturdivant was nominated for the honor by Jimbo Burkhalter.