At Rolling Hills, cotton farmers bring their harvests, normally in 2.5-ton round bales, for processing. The machinery at the gin is at its peak production period from October through December annually. At the gin, machinery separates and cleans the cotton fiber and removes the seeds (which are used in cattle feed and for cottonseed oil), after which the cotton is repacked in smaller (500 pounds) bales and graded and labeled for sale to textile producers. “The cotton fiber and seeds are separated, then the fiber must be graded on length, strength and color,” notes Morgan. Ideally, all cotton ginned at Rolling Hills would be purchased by producers within the USA, but that is not the case. “We would love for all of our cotton to stay in the Carolinas and be a totally ‘made in the Carolinas’ product,” said Morgan, “but that’s not going to happen. Still, if we can get it (the process) started, if a person wants a shirt that is made in the Carolinas, we can at least fulfill that.” For the cotton that does stay in the U.S.A., the next trip is another short one. The Spinner: Hill Spinning, Thomasville, N.C. Mark Leonard comes from a textile family. “We (Hill Spinning) started in the 1940s, when our grandfather started making hosiery,” says Leonard. “And attached to the hosiery mill, he built Hill Spinning Mill.” The hosiery section of Hill Spinning, located in Thomasville, has been closed for several years now, another casualty of NAFTA. “We closed the hosiery operation, mainly due to imports,” he said. “And now the only thing left is the cotton mill.” And although Hill Spinning is not a mega- producer, Leonard has recognized that the company can fill an important niche. 20 Discover Stanly | 2017 The Rolling Hills Gin “The bigger companies go for the big volume, and we can’t compete with that,” he said. “But because we are small, we can handle a lot of the smaller orders.” Leonard noted the steps that are taken with the cotton when it arrives at Hill Spinning. “Once the cotton arrives, we handle the opening, cleaning and blending of the fibers, then we bring it through our cards (a machine with hundreds of fine wires that pulls the fibers parallel to each other) nice and slow.” Following the carding step, the fibers are drawn, twisted and spun smaller and tighter at each step before being wound onto bobbins to conclude the spinning process. And while many such production jobs have been relocated overseas, Leonard has worked both hard and smart to keep Hill Spinning up and running. “We still have some equipment that is original from our start-up, and we have stayed in business by purchasing used equipment from other mills that have gone out of business, and using them and parts from them to cut costs,” said Leonard. “We feel an obligation to our family name, our employees and our community to keep these positions and these jobs running.” And from Hill Spinning, the product may be shipped to any of a number of North and South Carolina locations for the next steps. The Knitters, Finishers, Cutters, and Sewers: Various Industries and Towns in North and South Carolina As the process continues, a number of manufacturers perform like processes. Following the spinning of the cotton fibers from bale to bobbin, the next steps (knitting, finishing, cutting, sewing) may be handled at a myriad of Cotton of the Carolinas network locations. These include: Knitting: Alandale Industries, Troy, N.C. Contempora Knitting, Lumberton, N.C. Professional Knit, Clover, S.C. Finishing: Carolina Cotton Works, Gaffney, S.C. South Fork Finishing, Lincolnton, N.C.