Seeds of a Dream: State-of-the-art Cotton Gin opens
He is a man with a plan that has grown from a tiny white boll. PPF Gin and Warehouse owner Pat Pilgrim is ready to unveil his latest endeavor to promote the economic development of Delta County. Eli Whitney’s 1793 invention could not even hold a candle to this facility.
“This is going to be the most state-of-the art and most recent investment in agriculture in a 300 mile radius in the last 25 years,” said Pilgrim on the over $5 million ginning and warehouse company in Delta County.
By definition a cotton gin is a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds. The fibers are processed into clothing or other cotton goods. Seeds may be used to grow more cotton or to produce cottonseed oil and meal. In fact this facility will even be utilizing the scraps for production of feed or compost or of hardback books, including Bibles.
“This will be healthy for Delta County. Pat Pilgrim gives so much back and helps boost the community,” said Dustin Hunter, Vice President of the Delta County Economic Development Corporation, pleased in knowing they will be recycling.
Pilgrim has plans for cotton to be delivered to PPF Gin and Warehouse from over 250 miles away from its location on Farm-to-Market 1335 in Lake Creek, Texas. He currently has 8,000 acres of cotton and has only been able to pick 250 acres along with his Milo crop.
“We were hoping we would be able to let it grow between now and the first frost. You have to patient… you can’t be asking ‘what if?’ You can’t worry about the things you can’t doing anything about, you have to let the good Lord worry about that,” said Pilgrim explaining how the cotton cycles, “every three years – two good ones and a bad one (due to the current weather patterns).” He realizes the gin is opening on a bad year, but doesn’t seem to alter his positive attitude for the endeavor.
Delta County will be their main gin, and Deport location will be seed storage and overflow. He expects about 20 employees year-round.
“The cotton is so late this year. It is just now starting to open,” said Pat Pilgrim, on the few bales waiting in the yard to be ginned due to the overly wet season experienced in East Texas.
“I told my boys [Clayton, 28-years old and Jake, 14-years old] I wasn’t going to give them any inheritance they were going to have to work for it,” said Pilgrim. “I didn’t want to raise kids that were dependent and couldn’t produce.” His two sons decided they wanted to follow in his footsteps. The plan is to eventually have gins staged at 300 mile point radius with Delta County as the headquarters. He is using his connections from the family’s chicken business to cross over into the cotton business. He sold both locally at large chain stores and internationally. The businesses want to know where their products come from start to finish.
His father, Bo Pilgrim, started 1945 in the feed business. In 2008 they sold the chicken business, Pilgrim’s Pride, for $7 billion. It actually began in an old gutted cotton gin.
“I talk to the customer first,” said Pilgrim, self-proclaimed graduate of Bo Pilgrim University. “It is important to stay customer-driven instead of just production. We want customers will know where their cotton shirts in the store come from…and you will know. It will give you confidence, and it is American made.”
He will be offering contracts to farmers to buffer them from the woes of the market. He walked the steps of how a bale will be processed in the gin from the unwrapping machine, to the regulator, the computers, steady-flow, cleaning, a second cleaning, drying, monitoring, Lummus (American-made) machinery, separator, lint cleaner, battery condenser, scanner, tagger and a one-of-a kind technologically advanced machine – Signode GinFast – that eliminates the need for any ties or burlap bags. But not everything at PPF is based on high tech ways; there is still a manual punch card time clock.
Whitney's cotton gin model was capable of cleaning 50 pounds (23 kg) of lint per day. The invention of the cotton gin caused massive growth in the production of cotton in the United States of America, as it expanded from 750,000 bales in 1830 to 2.85 million bales in 1850. In this modern cotton production, cotton arrives in compressed “modules,” which weigh up to 10 metric tons each. At PPF Gin and Warehouse they will be capable of ginning 192,000 pounds of lint every 12 hours.
The 43,000 square foot building was constructed around the equipment from the solid basement to the over 58-foot roof. Each bale is graded by United State Department of Agriculture. Their inspectors stop by very frequently. They recently passed the preliminary inspection. He expects the module trucks will be phased out as the bales become round and are able to be transported by a flat bed trailer.
July 7, 2015 was the start date. He pulled in his resources and workers to make fast progress. Employees were painting railings and shining the machines. PPF Gin and Warehouse will provide local sales of cotton seed with a high protein and high fat content for cattle feed.
He visualized this plan from the integrated chicken business. Pilgrim is involved with the picking the varieties, how it is sprayed, how it is picked, how it is processed and stored to ensure the customer is satisfied. He had the electrical lines buried and has plans for the expansion with additional warehouses and space for another ginning machine. He assured variety changes and genetics in the cotton will make growing it easier and with less risk of diseases or infestations.
“Integration is important – cost savings, quality, consistency and accountability,” said a very observant Pilgrim. He learned these important lessons from his father, who is still alive to see his legacy live on making cotton king again. “My dad is America’s success story.”
Pilgrim along with his wife, Anne, and their family and staff hosted a Grand Opening Thursday, Oct. 15, complete with a ribbon cutting and tours.
“We want everyone to come and look,” said Pilgrim on the event. “We want the agricultural community to grow as a whole and prosper. We look forward to helping your agricultural ventures grow.”