Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau outreach director, sat down with Kelci Morrow Murphree (her niece by marriage) to talk about the cotton ginning link in the cotton supply chain.
Armed with her business management degree from Arizona State University, Kelci set out to work in agriculture and celebrate the generational farming she comes from. In all of it, cotton has been the central crop for this family.
“It’s been fun watching her, and nephew Kyle, build a family and career around Arizona agriculture,” Julie said. “When she started as Pinal Gin’s manager, I had to continue tracking her career trajectory and find out her new experiences at the gin and get an insider look at this critical aspect of the cotton supply chain.”
Arizona Agriculture: Like many Arizona farm and ranch families, you come from a generational farm family in southern Arizona. Talk about what it means to stay involved in the industry, especially in your new role as manager for Pinal Gin?
Kelci Murphree: My family has been farming since the 1970s and before that, they had a custom harvesting and trucking company. It has always been important to me to stay in the ag industry. It’s what I know and what I am passionate about.
Before taking on my position at Pinal Gin, I was with Helena Agri-Enterprises for six years. I loved the diversity and constant change that came with my position but at the end of the day, cotton has been my family’s focus. I am very proud to be a woman in ag. I feel like there are several of us paving the way for future women wanting solid careers in agriculture.
Arizona Agriculture: Describe what’s been most exciting and rewarding for you in your new role?
Kelci Murphree: This season (2021-22) everything has been exciting. Although I had worked at a gin before, I was not this involved. It has been exciting to learn about the entire process and be hands-on dealing with growers, marketers, vendors and the gin itself. I have learned so much in such a short time.
Arizona Agriculture: What do you like the most?
Kelci Murphree: To be completely honest, I like every aspect of my job. I get to deal with accounting, network with new people and do day-to-day problem-solving.
Arizona Agriculture: During the season, gins run 24/7. I’ve read that a cotton gin can’t afford any downtime, so managers always talk about “keeping the stands in.” Explain what this is and describe what it felt like during this latest cotton season?
Kelci Murphree: Yes, if the stands aren’t running, the rest of the gin has to stop production. It’s never a good feeling to check the cameras and see the stands out. That means there is a problem, and we are getting behind. This year, due to employee issues, we only ran a day shift, so it is important to be able to be as productive as we can within the 11-hour shift.
Arizona Agriculture: We had a pretty good cotton harvest season with USDA-NASS telling us we averaged 1,291 pounds per acre, the highest since the 2018 crop. Is that buzz about production and yield felt in the gin during peak season?
Kelci Murphree: As with everything else in the ag industry this year, acres were down. But with the good weather, most of our growers’ yields were up so the gin was not affected. We will end up ginning about the same number of bales as they did last year. Next year, however, may be a different story.
Arizona Agriculture: I’m told that once at the gin, the cotton really acquires its value when it becomes a bale ready to be shipped. Talk about this.
Kelci Murphree: The process is fast once the cotton is ginned. The finished bales will be shipped to the warehouse (usually by the next day) and from there they are graded and classed by the USDA and sold. I believe the grower usually will receive a payment within a week or two.
Arizona Agriculture: You’re seeing several links in the cotton supply chain. What makes our Arizona cotton supply chain links so special from your perspective.
Kelci Murphree: I believe our supply chain is special because of the people. I have met so many amazing people that I am lucky to deal with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I know that if I ever have a question or need help, I have multiple people to call on.
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