I recall a time when cotton was heavily produced in America. It was a time that provided excellent income for many people. Over the years, the cotton crop shifted away from Virginia and returned around the early to mid 1990s. We visited the Commonwealth Cotton Gin in Windsor, VA and learned about the healthy cotton crop production in VA.
The cotton is brought to Commonwealth Cotton Gin, weighed, and then stored for future processing in the plant. The long rectangular blocks of cotton are cleaned, de-seeded, recleaned (this is the ginning process) and pressed into bails that weigh about 500 pounds!
Here are some learning points that emerged from the tour:
- Johnny, Tom, and Chris all commented on the value of teamwork among their staff. Johnny, especially mentioned that the climate around the warehouse and overall mill encourages innovation and risk-taking in order to improve operations. He also stated, that if the innovation does not work, then there is an equal expectation to correct the opportunity.
- Cotton is easy to ignite, so in order to be safe and protect all the cotton in the ginning process, Commonwealth Cotton has recently installed a fire system that detects, “smells,” or identifies a fire or ignition and immediately closes valves and shuts the system down. The valves close at any given point to stop the spread of the fire or combustion throughout the ginning machines and pipe work.
- Prior to touring Commonwealth, we passed by cotton fields and noticed a lot of cotton on the ground throughout the entire field. We learned from Johnny that moisture in the cotton bulb causes it to partially open and the field machine can’t extract the cotton fully and it starts to become stringy or shreds and falls to the ground. The high moisture was likely due to the increased rainfall as a result of Hurricane Mathew (more about weather in another blog!).
- If you like agri-tourism, I highly recommend you tour this facility and learn more about your bedroom sheets!
Thank you, Johnny, Tom, and Chris!