Grave's Gin, a Staple in Clay County Agriculture

Thursday, November 12, 2015
A Graves Gin worker removes the clean bale of cotton from the press ready to be wrapped, sampled and hauled to Cargill's warehouse.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

In the 1950's and 60's 17 cotton gins were spread across Clay County. Today one stands alone: Graves Gin Corp. at Hargrave Corner.

The Hargrave Corner gin was built in 1948. In 1978 brothers Ralph and Bill Hayes purchased the gin from the original owner, and in the early 1990's Jimmie Graves entered into a partnership with the Hayes brothers. In 2001 Graves bought out the Hayes brothers' shares and the operation became known as Graves Gin Corp.

Jimmie Graves died in 1994 and his daughters Ginger Sain and Teresa Frankel of Rector and Pam Bronson of Memphis assumed ownership of the company.

Graves will gin about 20,000 acres of cotton this year. Gins have come a long way in the past 60 years. The average gin could only handle three to 10 bales per hour in the 50's, but today Graves Gin can move 30 bales an hour, manager Dennis Adams said.

Today, ginning is done much differently than when there were 17 gins. Everything was done manually and wagon teams were needed. Now the gin is set up much more like a well-oiled machine; in fact, that is exactly what it is.

It all begins with the farmer who grows the cotton. The cotton is picked and rolled into 480 pound bales. It is then moved to one of Graves Gins' two module holding fields, where long rolls of plastic covered cotton await their turn to be ginned. A module carrier, which looks like an average semi-truck, backs up to the roll and turns on a conveyor chain inside the bed of the truck which picks up the roll and pulls it into the trailer mechanically. Each roll can hold up to 16 bales, approximately 7,680 pounds.

The cotton is then moved to the gin, where it is placed on the module feeder. Workers reposition the bales with a hydraulic lift, making it easier to unwrap the plastic. It moves across a line of rollers into the feeder. Inside the feeder the cotton is broken apart.

The feeder moves the cotton into the feed control, then into the incline cleaner, then into the stick, taking out the hulls and sticks. It then moves into another incline cleaner before going into the conveyor and into the gin stands.

Three Continental 141 gin stands remove the seed, which is fed into the seed house. The seed house can hold up to 6,000 tons of seeds. Seed is moved out of the house using semi-trucks, which haul the product "mostly to dairy farms in places such as Nebraska, Wisconsin and South Dakota," Adams said.

From the stand the cotton moves into the condenser, further cleaning the cotton, and finally into the press, which presses the cotton down into more usable bundles. A worker handles the cotton from there, takes a sample and wraps the freshly clean cotton. The sample is moved to a quality check station and the bale is moved by forklift into a waiting semi.

Once the cotton is finished and the trailer is full, truck drivers haul the product to Cargill Cotton's warehouse in Memphis. Cargill Cotton buys the cotton directly from the farmer and then disperses it all over the world. "I know we've had some of ours go to Morocco," Adams said.

Cotton is a staple in everyday life for almost everyone in the world, from shirts, socks and underwear to fishnets, coffee filters, book bindings and archival paper. Cotton has been the main staple of Arkansas farming for decades and the need for the crop is still very relevant.

Clay County farmers planted nearly 23,000 acres of cotton this year, and those numbers were down from last year due to price points being low. However, Clay County still produced the usual 10 percent of Arkansas' cotton.

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