Third generation Cherokee County, Ala., cotton grower and ginner Richard Lindsey was named Southeastern Cotton Ginner of the Year, during the recent Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association annual meeting in Savannah, Ga.

Lindsey says third generation is conservative because his family was growing cotton in Cherokee County, in northeast Alabama, before the Civil War.  “My grandfather and his brother started a family farming operation and built a cotton gin in the 1930s, and I am the third generation at that farming operation,” he says.

The family still grows cotton, soybeans and other grain crops and expanded their ginning operation by joining forces with the Jordan family in Cherokee County to buy what was known for many years as the Public Gin in Centre, Ala.

Lindsey earned a degree in business management from Jacksonville State University in 1978 and returned to the family farm and ginning operation. At that time there were 13 gins operating in Cherokee County.

Today only one gin, Cherokee Gin and Cotton Company, operates in the northeast Alabama area of Cherokee, Etowah and Calhoun counties. Cherokee gin is primarily owned by the George Jordan Family and the Lindsey Family. George, Richard and his son, Rich, share the day to day management duties at Cherokee Gin.

Even at a young age, Lindsey was interested in politics. “I was involved in student council and other offices in school, and when I returned to the farm from college, I brought that interest in politics home with me,” he says.

“I first got involved helping friends get elected in state politics. I was helping one of those friends, who decided not to run for office. He suggested I run for the House of Representatives, but I thought I was too young and inexperienced,” Lindsey says.

He won that election back in 1983 and has served in the Alabama House of Representatives ever since. In 2010 Lindsey was the only Democratic candidate, other than those running unopposed, to retain or win a House or Senate post in north Alabama.

During his time in the State House of Representatives Lindsey has served as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and the Education Appropriation Committee. He was instrumental in starting AALGA — the Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance, which brought under one umbrella agricultural research efforts of Auburn, Alabama A&M and Tuskegee universities.

Has championed many causes

During his 27 year tenure, he has championed many agriculture and cotton related issues. He helped pass legislation for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, worked to secure state appropriations to offset the cost of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program to growers in Alabama, and passed a bill that gave cotton module trucks a special tag, which recognized their seasonal use and reduced the cost of the tag accordingly.

Among many honors and awards from his legislative service are: Legislator of the Year from the Alabama Rural Electric Coops, State Representative of the Year from the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts, and the Lifetime Legislative Award for his work on behalf of Alabama’s School Children from the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools.

Splitting time between managing a large agricultural operation and serving in the state legislature is challenging, but are two true labors of love, Lindsey says.

“In the ginning business, we have always tried to provide the best service possible as quick as possible. This year, we are looking at a 25 percent increase in cotton acreage in our area and hope we a better crop than last year, which was kind of average,” he says.

“Virtually every component of a modern cotton gin is expensive and it’s a tough business challenge to try and understand how the crop is going to change in terms of acres harvested. So, gearing up for the kind of acreage increase we are expecting this year is going to be a challenge.”

“Growing cotton during a year in which prices are at historically high levels will be similarly challenging,” the North Alabama grower says. “The price of cotton will dictate an increase in the cost of planting, growing and picking a crop,” he adds.

“The high input costs and learning how to manage herbicide resistant weeds will be major challenges for all our growers in north Alabama.”

In addition to serving cotton growers in northeast Alabama and in the state legislature, Lindsey also served as the 2010 president of the Southeastern Cotton Growers and co-chaired the Southern Cotton Growers and Southeastern Cotton Ginners annual meeting, held in Savannah.

rroberson@farmpress.com