Cotton Farming and Harvesting Jobs
Cotton requires a lot of sunshine, so it is grown mostly in the southern states in the United States. Planting starts as early as February in some areas, and can last until June in more northern areas. Like other crops, the plants are fertilized and pesticides are applied as growth is tracked.
During the planting season, some farms till the land before planting, while others use a no-till method. Workers run planters across the ground, covering a number of rows at once, and cultivators are run through the fields to get rid of the weeds, which can steal the sunshine and water from the plants. After about two or three months, the flowers bud and bloom, and after during from yellow to pink to red, the flowers fall off and the pods, which contain the cotton bolls, remain.
Farmers allow the bolls to grow until they split open the green pod, at which point workers use either pickers or strippers to harvest the cotton. At one time, this was done by hand, but machinery makes the process much faster on modern farms. Pickers twist the bolls from the stem and workers run the raw product through doffers to remove the seed cotton. Stripping machines use rollers to knock the bolls from the plant and into a storage bin. In both cases, the cotton in this raw state is stored in modules before ginning.
Some farms have their own cotton gins, while others sell their cotton to other companies to take it through the process, so you can work at one of these plants as well. Workers load the cotton modules, into the front of the gin, and the cotton moves through dryers and a cleaning machine. The gin uses teeth to pull apart the fibers and the seeds and presses the fiber, called lint, into large bales that are loaded onto trucks and sold to textile companies. The seed is typically sold for feed or sent to an oil mill to create products for plastics, paper, oil, and other uses.
Cotton farm pay rates start at minimum wage, but it depends on the tasks you do. Farms often hire seasonal workers, but many also have full-time positions of year-round workers. Some companies that process the cotton also have positions year-round, and many even have benefit packages for their workers.