By Mark H. Stowers
She was told by her mother not to marry a farmer, – much less an ag pilot. But Vicki Lawson did both as her husband Grover Lawson III was an ag pilot for years while farming, but now keeps his flying feet firmly on the ground of his Sardis area farm. He owns North Delta Gin Company and North Delta Ag Aviation and recently bought a gin in Marks and has been refurbishing it. These days Vicki Lawson serves as the President of the Women of the Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association (WMAAA). She and the rest of the members seek to educate the general public about ag aviation throughout the year.
“We try to support them (ag pilots) in a fundraising venue. We try to make people aware of what the ag aviation industry is about,” Lawson said. “Some people see the planes and have a bad taste in their mouth about what they think are bad chemicals. But none of the chemicals they are putting out now are bad compared to what it used to be.”
The organization raises money at their annual convention in Biloxi each January and those funds go toward billboards and other educational materials.
“We have t-shirts, stickers, car tags and all kinds of items that we sell,” she said. “We have a silent auction and all the money goes back into educating the public through billboards and ads in the Delta Business Journal. We try to help the public know that we are here to help you.”
These days the high-tech aviation vocation has plenty of flight planning, computer work and much more. The average cost of the planes most pilots fly range several hundred thousand dollars.
“The updated planes have computer programs that show you how the wind is blowing so they can spray more accurately. It’s a lot more automated like a lot of farming these days,” she said. “We have a lot better avenue to go back and look at exactly where each chemical was sprayed. The pilots have to be conscious of everything
The women support and educate and have meetings throughout the year. The WMAAA had its fall meeting last October in Greenwood. The women discussed the new Athena Program, an interactive program designed for those in a support role in the agriculture aviation industry including loaders, clerical, spouses, etc. It addresses risk management concerns of everyday life in the industry. There is also a scholarship program sponsored by the WMAAA and the MAAA.
“You don’t have to be going into the ag field to earn this scholarship. We are trying to change some of the requirements for the scholarship from the national level on down,” she said. “You can be any age and can be going to vo-tech or any college. The topic of the essay is usually about ag aviation but we are trying to broaden that.”
The WMAAA currently has between seventy-five to a hundred members with more attending the annual convention. To learn more about the organization, check out their website, www.msaaa.com. The annual convention will be held in Biloxi at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino from January 17 through January 19.