It's cotton harvest time! We visited a local gin to learn about the harvest process.
The cotton arrives in modules, which are made up of many bales. One module can weigh about 20,000 pounds!
The yellow loads are cleaned bales of cotton, packaged for shipment. Each bale weighs about 500 pounds. There are many bales on those trailers.
This is raw cotton, ready for processing. See how dirty and full of debris it is?
A close up of the module of cotton, fresh from the fields. Each module is recorded by a system that tracks it to its final destination. They can track it back to the very field in which it was grown even after the cotton reaches textile plants in Asia, if needed.
This is the mechanism that moves the modules off of the flatbeds onto the conveyer system to begin the ginning process.
Inside this machine, there are pickers that spin and break the cotton off of the modules and allows it to be suctioned into the next place, where it will be "ginned", or have the seed removed from the cotton, which is called 'lint'.
See the fluffy cotton on top? It's getting ginned and the seeds are being separated below. They look yellow in the picture, though they are white.
Here's the difference from the raw cotton (right) and the ginned cotton (left).
See how cute the cotton seeds are?
Control panels keep everything going as it should. I do have to say, it was SO LOUD INSIDE THAT YOU COULDN'T EVEN HEAR YOURSELF YELL! All the workers used ear and eye protection and many also had masks to breathe through. There was lots of cotton fiber in the air!
This is after the cotton has been further cleaned and combed. See how silky it is?!
This baling machine collects the finished cotton and presses it into 500 pound bales.
Samples are taken from each bale. One goes to the government for inspection, grading and pricing, the other back to the grower for his records. The yellow bag is sealed and loaded onto trucks for shipment. Most of the cotton we grow here in Central CA is grown for the seeds. The seeds are sent to other states for their crops, as well as kept for replanting for our farmers. The cotton is exported all around the world, especially to Asia, for use in textile production.
Here are all the parents and kids who participated in this tour. This giant pile of seed was not of good enough quality to plant, so it becomes cow feed. Other discarded seeds may be sent to be pressed for cottonseed oil.
After the pictures, the kids were allowed to conquer Cotton Everest.
Such a fun trip!
If you want to learn more about cotton, may I suggest a few books?
To contrast cotton and wool in textile production: Charlie Needs a Cloak
And for moms who might want to try their hand at spinning: