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TCGA Interns Reflect On Their Summer Experiences

TCGA logoThe Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association internship program has been a big success for many years. TCGA says it is pleased to see continued interest from college students and is always excited for these young people to experience the cotton industry.

The 2018 TCGA interns are Clay Braden, Texas Tech University; Mitchell Ratke, Oklahoma State University; and Dolan Vollmering, Texas A&M University. Here are the reports they submitted to TCGA about the time spent with their sponsors this summer.

Clay Braden

Running a cotton gin is not for the weak as long hours, extreme weather conditions and unpredictable breakdowns are just a few of the situations that gin managers and workers face. However, when you surround yourself with the right people, these situations can be tolerable and easily worked through. Edcot Co-op Gin manager Sid Brough has done just that. With assistant manager Daniel Luehrs and gin superintendents Jesus and Hector Cruz by his side, Mr. Brough makes ginning cotton look easy.

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I had the pleasure of spending three weeks at Edcot Co-op Gin in Odem, Texas, and it was an experience I will never forget. Upon arriving at the gin the first day, Mr. Brough shared with me a quote as he was introducing me to his office staff: “If mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy.” He was referring to the fact that he always does what he can to ensure that the ladies working in the office are happy and comfortable as they truly are the backbone of his operation.

Directly after meeting all of Mr. Brough’s office staff, I found myself in the gin meeting all of the employees, and we immediately got to work ginning cotton. They had just started up the gin the day before I arrived and were making some final adjustments before starting to operate 24/7.

I spent the majority of my time in the gin with day-shift superintendent Jesus Cruz as he showed me every piece of equipment and explained to me exactly how it worked. We performed repairs when necessary and checked every machine daily to see if anything needed to be adjusted. I spent time at every station in the gin from the module feeder to the press and became comfortable with every position. I learned how to operate the new press console as well as how to set the gin stands so the gin would run at its fastest, most efficient speed.

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I also spent a lot of time outside of the gin. I toured the classing office in Corpus Christi, as well as Gulf Compress and Valley Cooperative Oil Mill in Harlingen. I even had the opportunity to travel around the area and meet with many farmers as they were getting ready to harvest their crops. We coordinated how many trucks they would need at each farm to ensure that all of their cotton was out of the field in a timely manner.

I also spent a large amount of time learning some of the innovative software that Edcot uses with the RFIDs (radio efficiency identification reader) found on the round modules to help track and log them as they’re received and ginned.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in South Texas and really did not want to leave. I would like to thank Sid Brough and Daniel Luehrs for the wonderful learning experience at Edcot Co-op Gin and also for making me feel welcome and at home during my time in Odem. The cotton ginning industry is one big family and that was very evident from the beginning.

I would like to thank Aaron Nelson (with TCGA) for allowing me to work as an intern for the past two and half months and for coordinating this experience. This past summer proved to be an awesome experience that I believe will be an excellent stepping stone in my career path. It allowed me to make numerous connections that I believe will be very beneficial to me in life. I hope to keep in touch with as many people as possible! Thank you, TCGA.

Mitchell Ratke

For the final portion of this internship, I had the opportunity to work with Mr. Chris Breedlove at the Willacy Co-op in Raymondville, Texas. My arrival was a few days before cotton started to be ginned.

During those few days, my tasks involved assisting the gin staff in the final preparations for the upcoming season. This included helping with repairs and un-choking lint cleaners, gin stands, cyclones and any other equipment that required attention.

One project I worked on for Mr. Breedlove was collecting ginned seed samples from each of his gin stands to see how the new Lummus 170 gin stands compare to the old Lummus 158 gin stands.

Toward the end of my stay, I was brought into the office to learn about the everyday workings of managing a gin. I learned how modules are tagged and tracked on the yard and had the opportunity to talk with Chris on how he became a successful gin manager and how he continues to improve his gin with new technologies. On the last day, I toured the Willacy Co-op Gin storage warehouse. I observed how cotton bales are stored and tracked after they are ginned and transported to the warehouse.

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I would like to thank the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association for the opportunity to intern with them this summer. I would also like to thank the staff at Parmer County Cotton Growers in Farwell, Texas, and the staff at Willacy Co-op Gin in Sebastian, Texas, for being so accommodating. This internship provided a great deal of information that I will be able to use after my time at Oklahoma State University.

Dolan Vollmering

During my final few weeks of the TCGA internship, my time was spent working on the finishing touches of the United Ag Co-op cotton gin in Danevang, Texas. First of all, I helped change the brushes on the gin stand. I also had the chance to see how Session Howell performed dynamic brush balancing and how the automated saw training machine operates.

Once the gin was complete after the large expansion project, it was time to start it up. For the first time ever, I got to see cotton flow from the module feeder through all stages of cleaning and finally get pressed into a finished bale. I was informed that the environment of an operating gin requires every employee’s attention and strict safety precautions to avoid major complications. It was also satisfying to see the gin start up and run fairly smoothly after all the upgrades were integrated.

I would like to thank the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association, Aaron Nelsen, Jimmy Roppolo, Clay Whitley, Brett Nichols, everyone at United Ag Co-op, and everyone at Seminole Service Gin for giving me this opportunity and treating me with great hospitality. Thank you for taking time to teach me unforgettable lessons about the cotton ginning industry. I had very little knowledge about the industry before starting this internship, and now I am equipped with more information than I ever imagined. In the future, I plan to learn even more so I can become an asset to the industry.

The Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association contributed this report.