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Cotton gin running again after tornado

By Michael Butler

On March 27 at approximately 3 a.m., a tornado swept through a narrow track of land near the Highway 229 railroad crossing just past the Tallassee city limits.

Trees in its path were turned into toothpicks and one business was left in shambles - the Milstead Farm Group, a cotton gin which opened in 1998. Joey Scarborough is the manager at Milstead, a position he has held since 2006.

"The president of the gin (Shep Morris) called me. I happened to be awake," said Scarborough. "That morning Shep and I walked around the gin. It was very emotional. You put your life into something that's reduced to a pile of rubble.

"Shep said, 'We've got to rebuild this because it means so much to so many people.' It's not just me and the employees, but the farmers need a place to get their cotton ginned. The next generation - you've got to think about them too."

Before and After

The busy season for cotton ginning is in the fall, so the timetable to replace equipment and build a new plant from scratch was limited.

"If a gin misses a year, it's so detrimental because you lose a lot of your customer base. They've got to get their cotton processed. They can't wait on you," Scarborough added. "Once we saw that all the vendors and contractors could have this thing ready by October, we proceeded on. It's very specialized equipment. It's not like there's a bunch of Fords and Dodges you can just go to the car lot and replace. Everything had to be fabricated."

Milstead Farm Group reopened and ginned its first bale of cotton for the season on Oct. 19.

"It's good to be finished up. It's been a long summer. It's been a lot of work. It's a better plant. We have similar equipment, but it is newer. (It's) very efficient. Our customers have been rooting for us."

This year, Milstead will gin more than 50,000 bales, Scarborough noted. "Our goal is a thousand bales in a 24-hour period."

The cotton comes primarily from Central Alabama. After it is ginned it will be stored in local area warehouses.

"It'll go overseas where it will be processed to a yarn and then a woven or knit good," Scarborough concluded.