|An amazing day was spent with Dan Taylor, former owner of Buster's Gin in Ropesville, TX. Dan invited us out to he and his wife Linda's beautiful home to see his museum of cotton memorabilia which takes up an entire barn and his tractor collection (which fills another barn). He spent several hours with us, showing us old machinery that was used to plant,harvest and gin cotton. Dan has been in the cotton business since the 1970's not only owning the Gin but farming over 4000 acres (mostly cotton). Dan donated a bale of cotton for President George W. Bush's Texas Black Tie & Boot Inauguration Ball in Washington DC in 2001 and the bale is proudly on display with his collection. You can read an article about Dan at http://southwestfarmpress.com/dan-taylor-proudly-preserves-cotton-gin-history. After showing us through his wonderful collection, Dan took us to a field where cotton was being harvested and told us about the process. What starts out as a tiny seed in the spring turns to fields of white that looks like snow. The plants blossom turn a bright red for 3 days before the boles form...can only imagine how beautiful the fields are then? The cotton in Texas is harvested with "strippers" that strips the plant up into the machine and leaves the stalks in the ground to help with erosion over the winter. We learned that Texas is the largest cotton producing state in the U.S. Then it was on to the Cotton Gin to see the entire process from beginning to end. Boy has ginning come a long way since it all began with the first cotton gin made by Eli Whitney in 1793. Since owing the Gin in the 70's, Dan has upgraded the Gin seven times as equipment became more up to date. We started out by watching the modules (big rectangles) which weigh over 20,000 pounds are put onto a conveyor and sent through a cleaner to remove the biggest pieces of debris. There are 10-14 bales of cotton in each module. It is then piped into the Gin where it goes through seven different cleaning processes in less than a minute and the cotton seeds are removed. It is filled with air to remove the moisture to further the cleaning process. It then has moisture added back to it to a level of 6% to make the packing process easier. It runs through a chute and is packed and banded tightly in to approximately 500 pound bales. As it is being packed, workers save samples of each bale which is marked and then sent on for quality testing and determining the lint's fiber length. According to Dan, nothing is wasted. The debris (hulls) is used for cattle feed and mulch, the cottonseeds are used for everything from livestock feed to soap and cooking oil. The "Linters" which is the soft cotton, is shipped all over the world to make everything from bed sheets to jeans. One bale of cotton makes 1217 men's T-shirts, 249 bed sheets, 600 terry bath towels, 21960 women's handkerchiefs, 215 pairs of jeans or 765 men's dress shirts. We were sad to learn that over 60% of U.S. cotton is shipped to China for manufacturing because it is cheaper than manufacturing here in the U.S. (including shipping to China and back to the U.S.). Dan and his wife are epitome of the "friendliest people live in Texas," and we were blessed to have met them and can't thank them enough for taking time to teach us about cotton. I will post more photos on my Facebook page.