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Ginnin’ and grinnin’
by Kenda Nelson
Aug 20, 2010 | 1314 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walt Franke’s Venture Farms brought in the first bale of cotton at Bayside-Richardson Gin last week and the gin started its 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule Friday.
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The trail of fluffy-white, recently harvested cotton that is spilled onto the edges of the county roads leads to Bayside-Richardson Gin near Bonnie View. For those traveling the back roads, the trail left by cotton trucks announce this year’s harvest. Coming off last year’s drought-induced, bleak season, things are finally looking up for the county’s farmers but they’re not out of the woods yet on the cotton crop.

“We need three more weeks of dry weather to finish,” says John Schlabach, one of the county’s family farmers. “Only about 10 percent is harvested but once it’s in the modules, you’re covered by insurance and it’s safe.”

Schlabach thinks that most people believe that crop insurance, a necessity for obtaining a load to keep the family farmers in business, provides the cost of lost crops.

“Insurance pays very little,” he says. “I don’t think anybody can live very well on what you get from the insurance.”

The required insurance pays only 65 percent of each farmers’ five-year average. Throw in the price of the premium and the percentage drops to 60.

With back-to-back hard seasons, the county’s family farmers are due a break.

Schlabach didn’t plant grain sorghum this year; he planted his fields entirely with cotton so good weather over the next three weeks is critical.

Walt Franke of Venture Farms brought in the county’s first bale of cotton last Wednesday. On Friday, workers began ginning 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Last year, the gin didn’t open its doors or gin one bale of hay.

Gin secretary Pam Chesnutt said little rain fell at the gin on Tuesday; however, Refugio farmers were not so lucky as spotty showers fell on some of their crops.

“It looked like this year was going to be the best cotton we’ve had in 10 years but we took a hickey at the end,” Schlabach said, referring to the tropical showers that moved into the area last month. “if we get cotton with no damage, it will help farmers make up for last year’s losses.”

The grain harvest is almost complete. West of the gin sits 55 snow-white bags, each capable of holding 400,000 pounds of grain sorghum. The storage bags holds the equivalent of eight 18-wheelers.

Roxanne Wiginton, Woodsboro Co-Op manager, ordered the bags in anticipation of a bumper grain crop that would exceed the storage capability at the elevators.

“The grain averages 12 percent damages,” Wiginton said.

Rows of white 200 feet long, heavy-duty plastic bags create an unusual sight near the gin. The bumper grain crop, while somewhat damaged when tropical rains moved through the area last month, is predicted to be one of the best in the previous 10 years.

Schlabach says the late cotton and some late grain is still in the fields since some planted late and other replanted some of their fields.

With the chance of tropical storms higher than usual because of an El Nino for the next few weeks, Schlabach and other area farmers will be watching the skies and the weather station.
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