The familiar hum of gins at Cherokee Gin & Cotton Co.’s new facility on U.S. Highway 411, will soon replace the sound of noisy construction equipment that began almost a year ago.
Expected to be operational by Feb. 1, the new gin located 5 miles east of Centre is part of the most technologically advanced system in the world, said gin manager Rich Lindsey.
“Our old gin is running right now and is located near downtown Centre,” he said. “At capacity, it can gin about 35 bales an hour. The new system, which features the GIN MANAGER manager software, will allow us to gin 50-plus bales an hour.”
Both gins will run through this harvest season before the old gin is sold for parts.
The new system is about more than speed. It’s also about efficiency, capacity and production of higher-quality cotton for farmer customers and merchants who buy the finished product, Lindsey added.
“The GIN MANAGER automation system is in other gins around the world, but those systems were added onto existing gins,” said 31-year-old Lindsey, a fourth-generation cotton farmer. “Our fully automated system is the first one built from the ground up using this technology. We can monitor the entire gin — what’s happening every step of the way — from a control panel.”
The system lets the operator see the cotton as it goes through a series of sophisticated cleaners, dryers and vacuums, allowing the controller to make adjustments that maximize the gin’s efficiency, Lindsey said. The new location is an 82-acre site with more room for trucks, storage and shipping. The old location had no room for bale storage, while the new facility can store up to 48,000 bales. Additionally, cottonseed storage capacity will jump from 2,500 tons to 9,000 tons.
Lindsey and his father, former state Rep. Richard Lindsey, manage Lindsey Brother’s Inc. They are partners in Cherokee Gin & Cotton Co. with Jordan Cotton Inc., owned by Nick and Freida McMichen. All live in Cherokee County, near Centre.
“I’ve grown cotton all my life,” Richard said. “When I graduated high school in 1974, there were 13 gins in Cherokee County. Now there’s only one, and our gin can process, bale, strap and wrap more cotton than all of the other previous 13 gins combined.”
Freida is proud of the history her family has with ginning cotton in Alabama. Built on her family’s property, the new gin is the fourth to stand there. The first was a steam-powered gin in the 1800s.
The new gin also is good news for area farmers. High-quality fiber achieved through advanced technology and cleaning systems at the new gin translates to better prices for farmers. The speed of ginning also helps farmers get paid quicker, since their paychecks are issued once their cotton is ginned.
“The old gin was good — in its day, it was great,” said Nick, who also grows cotton and other row crops. “But an investment in technology will allow us to gin faster, better and more efficiently. There are more cotton acres coming into production in our area of the country, and this will give us the ability to accommodate that growth.
“The U.S. has a reputation for producing the world's best cotton. This gin was built around making the highest quality cotton.”