We talk a lot about family farm operations in the cotton industry, and that’s certainly no accident or coincidence. How can you have a conversation about cotton farms, gins or warehouses without families being mentioned. No matter where you travel throughout the Belt, you’ll find families of all sizes doing what they do best – managing a business.
In most cases, family members are doing the work of several people in an effort to make the entire operation as cost-efficient as possible. That’s the environment in agriculture today.
It’s hard to put a specific label on the Kelley family of Burlison, Tenn., just seven miles outside Covington in the western part of the state. For more than 20 years, Richard and Charlotte Kelley have managed Burlison Gin, one of the largest and most respected ginning operations in the Mid-South.
In our cover story this month on pages 10, 11 and 12, we have taken a closer look at this family-run company, which now includes Richard and Charlotte, their two daughters Kerry and Leslie, as well as two sons-in-law, Brad Williams and Michael Roane. The formula for success at Burlison Gin is relatively simple and straightforward. Be as efficient as possible. Embrace technology in a cautious but sensible way. Do whatever is necessary to take care of the customer’s cotton. And, most importantly, have a passion about cotton and be a great industry ambassador.
The Kelleys pretty much conduct their business that way, and it’s why Burlison Gin is still thriving today.
My first visit to this gin occurred more than 20 years ago when I was working for the National Cotton Council. I was part of a group accompanying some overseas textile mill representatives on a Cotton Council International tour of the Cotton Belt. One of our stops was at Richard and Charlotte’s office.
After the introductions that day, Charlotte showed why she is one of a kind. She walked up to me and said she remembered my byline from the Memphis Press-Scimitar newspaper in 1970 when I covered a high school football game between Byars-Hall and Haywood. Both Richard and Charlotte were students at Byars-Hall. Could this really be true? Was it a joke? No, it wasn’t a joke. Charlotte simply never forgets anything.
Through the years, I have laughed about that moment with Richard and Charlotte. But that’s the kind of people the Kelleys are. They know how to treat their farmer-customers and relate to the general public. They also have remarkable memories. Could they possibly remember my name in another 10 years?
I am betting that they can.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 5118 Park Ave., Suite 111, Memphis, Tenn., 38117. Or send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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