Glenn Mast and his son, Rodney, are shareholders in the new gin; they farm 5,000 acres and have an equipment dealership in Lowndes County, Miss., near Columbus.

They’ve had soybeans in their crop lineup for years — but have dropped them altogether this year in favor of cotton. They’ve also exited their long-time catfish business and will use the 120 acres of ponds as reservoirs to feed center pivots.

 “Some of us farmers had met the Tuesday before at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show to discuss the potential for building a gin for the 2013 season,” Glenn says.

“At the show, I talked with the Cherokee representatives about our interest and they told us they thought they could have a facility up and running for this year’s crop. Since we’d figured the best we could expect was fall 2013, we were excited about that.

“We came back from the show, had a meeting with our growers, who put $100,000 on the table as earnest money to order equipment. A week later, we had a stockholder agreement in place, had bylaws filed with the Secretary of State, and $1.6 million in grower commitments in order to secure financing for the balance. The Federal Land Bank did a fantastic job in helping us with financing the project.

“From the original grower meeting to a done deal took 11 days,” Glenn says. “We’ve been assured the gin will be up and running by Sept. 16, and we have financial incentives built into the contract to encourage the suppliers and contractors to meet that target.

“We’re really bullish on cotton, and this facility is an indication of other growers’ belief in the future of the crop here.”

Rodney Mast says no new cotton gins have been built in this region in many years.

“Area farmers have been hauling cotton 50 miles to 100 miles to have it ginned. This new gin will not only save on transportation costs, but will give us a better product and put more money back in cotton farmers’ pockets. There has been 30 percent more cotton seed sold for planting in this area this year than last year, and with this new gin, I think we can expect that acreage will grow even more.

Jerry Scarborough, one of the owners of Cherokee Fabrication LLC at Salem, Ala., which will supply the gin equipment, says, “In my 50 years in the business, I’ve never seen a deal go together the way this one has. About as quick as I could get it out of my mouth that they’d need $100,000 earnest money, they had it.

“I went back to the office and told everyone I’d sold a new gin. ‘Who’s it for?’ they asked. ‘I don’t know,” I said. ‘What’s the gin name?” they asked. ‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘but I’ve got five signed checks here and they’re ready to move.’ For something like this to come together in less than a two-week time span is unprecedented.

“The interest these growers have shown, and their willingness to work together to make the project happen, has been amazing,” Scarborough says.

“We seldom build new gins from the ground up — one a year, if we’re lucky. Most of our work is modifying or upgrading existing facilities, or doing repairs. Our most recent installation of our latest equipment was for the Kiech-Shauver-Miller Gin at Monette, Ark. We’re also in the process of building a new gin in Brazil on a 60,000-acre operation to replace an old one that’s only ginning 4 to 5 bales per hour.”

Changes in ginning technology have been impressive over the years, Scarborough says.

“A modern gin like this one can gin more cotton faster, more efficiently, and with better quality than earlier-generation machinery. This facility will have the largest gin stands in the industry — two 244 Magnums, each with 244 saws and each capable of ginning 30 bales per hour. The entire operation will have the latest digital controls and technology to constantly monitor all functions.”

It’s being designed to handle round modules from modern pickers with on-board module builders, he notes. Several growers associated with the gin have already purchased round bale pickers and others are planning to do so.

“The gin press can handle about 70 bales per hour, and there will be a 142-inch lint cleaner,” Scarborough says. “The facility will also include an 85,000 ton seed house, one of the biggest in Mississippi.

“When I started in the business in 1960,” he says, “there were 4,500 gins operating in the U.S. Now, there are only about 650, but the volume of cotton they gin is far more than that of all those earlier era gins combined.”