Late in the afternoon, the sun is getting low and the cotton harvesters are at work at the Ernie Schirmer Farms, in Batesville, TX, on August 22, 2020.
Four days ago, rain showered this cotton crop, soaking the soil and making the delicate round cotton bolls droop and dangle from the plant; and softening the soil that has to support the weight of the cotton-picking equipment. Today, an approaching storm motivates them to begin a day early.
From 10 AM to 10 PM, harvesters are driven across the circular (pivot irrigated) fields. The harvesters use specialized harvester heads that twist and pull the soft, cotton boll from the plant; and then the cotton bolls are vacuumed up into a large open-air bin. When full, operators return to the mobile industrial area to unload cotton into 'stompers' (module builders). Stompers use a hydraulic ram and tramper beam to compress the cotton into modules, 32 feet long, 7 1/2 feet wide, and 9 1/2 feet tall. Once complete, the stomper is raised and pulled away, simultaneously pulling a protective tarp over the top. Once covered tight, the modules become the property of the cotton gin. At the end of each day, a vacuum is used to pick up all the fallen cotton and added to a module.
The storm never made it to Batesville, so they were able to work into the night.
The Schirmer family have owned and operated farms in the south-central Texas region for six generations, since 1875.
In the harvesters are Ernie Schirmer Farms (Batesville) Operations Manager Brandon Schirmer (in grey shirt and dark brimmed cap, 6th generation), and farm owner and father Ernie Schirmer (dark shirt and orange cap, 5th generation), Jerry Berstraeten, with son Brett; at the same time, Ernie's wife Terri (yellow shirt and tan cap), cousin Cali Erfurth (pink t-shirt), Derek Reininger (grey t-shirt and tan cap) and a fellow farmowner Carl Santleben (western hat) operate the stompers.
USDA Photo and Media by Lance Cheung. Original public domain image from Flickr