Gin Managers Cotton To Training Classes
See-through panels on the micro-gin allow students to observe the ginning
processall the way from crude cotton to finished product emerging here.
Lloyd (Mike) Inlow of Hickory Valley, Tennessee, made a decision 5 years ago
that helped make a big difference in the operation of Hickory Valley Cotton Gin
Company, where he is gin manager. Inlow went to cotton ginning school to
improve his ability and add to his already 7 years' experience in cotton
Ginners' schools are sponsored by the Agricultural Research Service, National
Cotton Ginners Association, and the Cooperative Extension System. They are
thought to transfer ginning technology at the user level far better than any
other method in use today.
"Cotton ginners can go there to learn the latest information on how to
preserve lint quality and increase gin efficiency," says ARS agricultural
engineer W. Stanley Anthony, who heads research at the Stoneville (Mississippi)
Cotton Ginning Laboratory. The lab's mission is to develop new technologies and
substantiate older ones.
In terms of efficiency, Inlow says, "We've nearly doubled our baling
capacity in the last 4 years. We've gone from ginning 8 bales an hour to
14." He says that like students in law school, they learn at ginning
school how to find information so they'll know where to look when a problem
Inlow credits technical knowledge gained at the ginning school with helping
him make changes in the gin operation and its machinery. "We didn't buy
new equipment but instead modified and made adjustments to existing
machines," he says.
Stacey Harrell, a computer systems analyst for the Dumas Cotton Gin in
Dumas, Arkansas, says, "Even though I had observed the ginning operation
while growing up and had some experience, I really didn't know the details
until I attended the school. I learned exactly what each machine does and how
it affects the cotton quality."
Harrell took Level I instruction in 1996 and this summer plans to take Level
II. He hopes to be certified in the years to come.
Students scrutinize the full-sized gin facility's work area and machinery for
safety violations and afterwards discuss the various problems noted.
"I definitely think the schooling and certification help our business.
Farmers ask questions about the Agricultural Research/October 1997 various
grades of cotton, and how I answer them gives them a higher confidence in our
company," says Harrell.
In the past, ginners had to learn by the hard road of experience. The
school, now in its 12th year, offers a systematic method for learning how to
improve cotton fiber. In 1992, the school began offering optional certification
"Certification means competency. And competency attracts more cotton
farmers to place their cotton in our gin," says Bobby Greene, President of
Servico in Courtland, Alabama.
Located in the northwest part of Alabama, Servico has 30 full-time
employees. Greene says, "Two of our employees Kenneth Montgomery and
Willie Cross became master ginners in 1996. I believe that their status as
master ginners instills a higher degree of confidence in our customers."
Greene was so pleased with their achievement and the improved efficiency of
his business he gave 10 percent pay raises to Montgomery and Cross.
"Over the years, I've sent at least 10 employees to take one or more
levels of the training," says Greene. "Every year, there's something
new to learn at the school."
These individuals aren't the only ginners who are receiving benefits from
the intensive 3-day training sessions held in Stoneville and at other
locations. About 3,000 ginners representing cotton gins in 15 states have
passed through the Stoneville gin school, according to Anthony, who is one of
the instructors and co-developers of the curriculum at Stoneville.
One of the school's original founders was Bill Mayfield. Stationed in
Memphis, Tennessee, he is the national program leader for cotton ginning in
USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. Mayfield
came up with the idea of certification and believes that cotton gin operators,
like automobile mechanics, should have some way of proving their competency on
The first school for cotton ginners was held at the ARS Cotton Ginning
Research Unit in Stoneville in 1985. Similar schools are held at the other ARS
ginning research units in Lubbock, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico. An
additional 1,700 ginners have attended at those two training sites.
And ARS researchers helped launch the first ginning school in Australia in
1993. Now training sessions are run there by the Australian cotton industry
Cotton ginners from 15 states have attended at least one level or more of
training, reports Anthony.
- Level I - covers proper maintenance of gin equipment, air
use and drying, electrical systems, and gin safety.
- Level II - offers advanced training in these areas and
adds the study of pneumatics, waste collection, and gin management tips.
- Level III - reviews the ginning system and provides
information on gin air systems, drying and moisture restoration systems, bale
presses, hydraulic systems, and cottonseed handling systems.
Special emphasis is placed on safety in the cotton gin and common hazards
that can occur in the operation of machinery. A Red Cross course is also part
of the curriculum, and successful completion is required for certification.
"Students have the opportunity to meet with other ginners from other
states, and find out what problems they have and how to solve them," says
Enrollees in the school should have at least 3 years' experience of working
in a gin. Fees of $90 to attend Levels I and II and $120 for Level III are
charged to help offset the school's operating costs. The NCGA handles all
monetary and administrative matters for the schools. Cooperators from the
ginning industry help instruct classes at all levels.
"The Stoneville lab is unique in that we have a mini-gin and other
machines with Plexiglass sides, so the students can watch the cotton go in and
through the ginning process from beginning to end," says Anthony.
By Linda Cooke.
Stanley Anthony is located at the USDA-ARS Cotton Ginning Laboratory, 111
Experiment Station Rd, Stoneville, MS 38776; phone (662) 686-3094.