Saturday, October 1, 2016

Caywood Farms Tour, Casa Grande, Arizona

Jim's brother gave us the suggestion to check out Caywood Farms.  So, I went on their website to find out what they were all about.  All I found out was that they were a cotton farm and did tours of their farm. I scheduled our tour for their opening day at 1:00 pm.  We were able to sign up and pay on line as well as sign our waiver, which was great - it saved a lot of time and everything was done by the time we got to the farm.  Nancy greeted us upon our arrival and welcomed us and the other tour members.  We went into a little rec room where she and her husband serenaded us with guitar and fiddle songs.  Afterwards, she opened up the power point presentation on her laptop and told us about the farm.

Cotton Field
As much as I am against GMO's, the cotton seeds come from Monsanto and are all GMO.  They are treated with a fungicide which keeps it from being attacked by so many bugs, allowing the farm to not use many pesticides to keep the bugs away. We all love cotton - from our clothing to our bedsheets.

The seeds are planted in spring after any signs of a frost or freeze. The machines they use to plant the seed is amazing, not something I can explain here.

The cotton plant takes about two months to grow enough to flower.  The flower buds are called squares.  In another three weeks the blossoms open.  The petals are creamy white to pale yellow.

Within a few days the flowers change to dark purple, and three days later they wither up and fall off, leaving greed pods which are referred to as bolls.  The boll is the fruit of the plant and is self-pollinating.

Cotton Boll

Inside the cotton boll

Before the cotton ball has matured the inside is wet and the fibers not formed. Left to grow, the boll ripens the maturing seed and moist fibers continue to expand forcing the boll to split open allowing the fluffy cotton to burst out.

Cotton bolls do not open all at once but toward the end of summer, most of the bolls have opened indicating harvest time is near. Each boll can have 24-30 seeds which compromise the bulk of the cotton's weight. Before harvest, the cotton is sprayed with a defoliant which causes the leaves to dry up and fall off the plant. This is done so there is less plant trash mixed in with the cotton thus providing cleaner picked cotton.

The machines pull the cotton off the plants and dump them into a basket, then into a cotton module builder. The builder holds about 15,000 pounds, which is 2/3 seed and 1/3 cotton lint. Cotton goes through a few processes to get it clean and free of seeds. After the seeds have been removed, the cotton is now called lint and is pressed into bales, which weigh about 470-500 pounds.

After all this, the cotton needs to be "graded." Standards for grading were established in 1912 by the New York Cotton Exchange and are still in use today. There are 20 total grades used to classify cotton. Before computers were used to grade the cotton, people would go to school to learn to grade cotton by hand. The Cotton Classifying Chart reads as follows:

FAIR, Strict Middling, Fair, Middling Fair, Barely Middling Fair, Strict Good Middling, Fully Good Middling, Good Middling, Barely Good Middling, Strict Middling, Fully Middling.
MIDDLING, Barely Middling, Strict Low Middling, Fully Low Middling, Low Middling, Barely Low Middling.

I am sure you have heard of the term "fair to middling" when asked how one is doing.  Well, this is where that term came from - the grading of cotton. 

This machine harvests the cotton and drops it into the big bin behind it.

Cottonseed oil has quite a few uses as well.  There are 20 listed in our booklet, but I won't list them all here. I will mention a few of the ways cottonseed touches our lives:

Cotton is used in snack food ingredients, photo film, feed for cattle, catfish and other animals; toothpaste.  The development of the cottonseed industry began with the invention of the Cotton Gin in 1793. The Cotton Gin made it possible to collect cottonseed in mass quantities, thus spurring the development of the cottonseed products industry. 

One of the first cottonseed byproducts was Cottonseed Oil, America's first "vegetable" oil, which is extracted from the cottonseed kernel. More than 100 years later, cottonseed oil is still used in snack foods such as chips, pretzels, and crackers. It is also a key ingredient in many marinades, dressings, margarines and prepared foods. Foods such as Crisco, Wesson Oil, Blue Plate Salad Dressing, Ivory Soap, and other products were originally developed using cottonseed oil. 

The linters are the short, fuzzy fibers that cling to the seed (see first picture). Uses include photographic film, paper for currency, cellulose for foods such as ice cream, maple syrup, chewing gum, and toothpaste.

The hulls are used as roughage in the diet of cattle and as a high quality, organic mulch for gardening.

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