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Close-up view of the cotton starting to bloom during the month of September.

Cotton Harvesting in the Community

By Richie Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

Since early this spring, farmers have been working preparing fields in the Community for the cotton crop. Adam Hatley who oversees the Associated Farms remembered when his father “Sonny” who is well known in the Community first started working and became a partner for the company back in 1976 and how much time he put into the work he did. Originally in 1972, Associated Farms was owned by Gilbert Rogers.

Several years later, Hatley would join his father in 1986 and continue to do what he loves, which is being a farmer and taking over his father’s spot at Associated Farms.

Every year around this time, cotton crops are harvested, farmers are out in the early mornings to late at night bringing in the cotton. Have you ever wondered what process takes place for the cotton to grow every year.

Once they start cultivation, which takes place in the spring time, crews for Associated Farms work around the clock day and night with irrigating and keep watch on the seeds as they turn into plants. This process takes place during the spring showers, summer heat and up to the beginning of the winter season.

“We lease about 3800 acres and of that, this year we have 2300 [acres] of cotton and 800 [acres] of alfalfa,” said Hatley about the farming done on the Community. “We just keep the water on it, watch for insects and fertilize it. By mid-September we shut the water off and let the crop dry down and they try to have it ready to pick by the first of November.”

Harvest will begin late in the fall season and the process will take about six weeks to harvest the crop. “An average crop is about two and three quarter bales per acre, and a bale after it has been ginned is about 480 pounds; that is about what our average is,” he said.

When cotton is vandalized it’s pretty much useless, when the cotton gets tagged [with graffiti] or ruined by water or sometimes its internal combustion and will eventually catch on fire by itself this also devalues the grade of the cotton. In some cases, they can try to take out the ruined portions.

Then once the bales go up then it is time for plowing the land, it will take all winter to prepare for the season in March when they start the seeding process again.

Through the years with farming big changes have been, genetically modified cotton, in the years past farmers would start up with the roundup ready their number one weed is the morning glory and for years had to run whole crews on keeping the fields clean of the pest.

“They cultivate once early in the spring now with the modified cotton but prior to this we had to cultivate six to seven times throughout the season to try and keep the weed under control,” said Hatley as he remembered all the hard work. Plus extra expensive diesel, labor, tractor wear and tear.

After the cotton gets placed in the modules it goes to a cotton gin in Pinal County and they will come every night with three or four trucks and haul them away to the gin. The cotton gets processed by separation of the cotton lint’s from the seeds and trash. So the cotton lint is where they put in the 480 pounds that he mentioned earlier.

It gets separated, packaged and sent to a warehouse where it will wait to be sold.

“A lot of our raw cotton will then go overseas to get processed into textiles and apparel, then again it will be shipped back to the U.S. to be placed on the shelves in the stores,” said Hatley on the cotton.

Pima had been called American-Egyptian cotton but was renamed to honor Pima Indians who were growing the cotton for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in experimental farms in Arizona in the 1900s. It is of the Extra Long Staple (ELS) variety.

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