Gulf Coast Cooperative History
On March 11, 1944, a group of area farmers held a meeting in Ricardo to discuss and organize a cooperative for serving the area farmers. They purchased a cotton gin in the Ricardo community. The charter directors for the organization were: W.E. Cumberland – President, Charles Rosse - VP, L.L.Huff Sr. - Sect. / Treasurer. B. Gilllespie and George Dietz were directors. They hired B.W. Weir as their first manager and named the new organization Kleberg County Farmers Cooperative. In 1947, Kleberg County Farmers Coop became a member of the Kingsville Chamber of Commerce. By 1948, the organization had built 18 cars of grain storage and 1 of the first wooden elevator legs in the area. This was the start of the only farmer owned organization in the county. The fifties brought more growth and modernization to the organization. More grain storage was built, the gin was remolded, land was purchased around the facility for future growth and in March of 1955, the coop had installed their first business telephone. By the end of 1959, the directors were proud to announce that all facilities had been completely paid for and they had no outstanding loans. Growth in the sixties resulted in the coop interning into long-term debt again for expansions in their cotton gin and grain elevator. A new office building, scales, cottonseed warehouse, grain dump pits, grain storage and new equipment for the cotton gin was purchased. The coop was growing in size as more and more land was placed into crop production.
The seventies brought a new direction and growth for the cooperative. The producers were demanding more from their organization. In the early seventies dry fertilizer bins were built followed by tanks being set to store about 150 tons of liquid fertilizer. By the end of the seventies a new grain facility was built, a 960-ton dry fertilizer facility was built, a chemical warehouse and the start of a small farm and ranch supply store was operating. Changes were happening in the cotton industry that would bring even more changes in the eighties. In 1979, the coop had its best ever season with 482 cars of grain and 16,000 bales of cotton ginned. Cotton acres in the eighties were increased due to new varieties being made available for the producer. Cotton modules replaced cotton trailers and module feeders for gins replaced the suction sheds. The organization rebuilt the gin in the early eighties to handle the increase production of cotton. More grain storage was built throughout the eighties increasing storage capacity at the facility from 400 cars to over 800 cars of storage. In 1984 the coop rebuilt its office and farm store facility and moved into a new 9000 square foot building. Storage tanks for liquid fertilizer were built increasing storage capacity to over 5500 tons. The eighties brought growth and expansion to the coop. Crop production were good and profits were up. But, at the end of the eighties Kleberg County experienced three years of drought similar to the drought of the fifties. Production was about 1/3 of a normal year and things were rough.
The nineties were challenging for Kleberg County Coop. The agriculture industry was changing. Volume size and capacity were becoming critical for any agricultural organization. Kleberg County continued to expand in there fertilizer division, they purchased custom applicator trucks and semi trucks to deliver product to the fields. In 1997 in order to compete with national fertilizer and chemical companies Kleberg County Coop joined with seven other coops in the area to form Coastal Acres LLC. A new fertilizer facility was purchased and with the combined assets of the eight Coops, an organization was formed which sell 25-26 thousand tons of fertilizer and 7-8 million in farm chemicals and seed per year. In 1998 more changes took place with a gin being purchased in Nueces County and with the combined capacities of the two gin plants volume was increased to an average of 22,000 bales a year. At this point Kleberg County Farmers Cooperative changed its name to Gulf Coast Cooperative. In May of 2002 disaster struck the grain elevator in Ricardo when a storm caused major damage leaving only one receiving leg standing. The facility was rebuilt in time for the harvest season and improvement made to make the operations run more smoothly. By the year 2004 Gulf Coast Cooperative has seen growth in the fertilizer joint venture and a record year for both the elevator with full capacity of 640 cars and the cotton gin ginning 48,000 bales. In 2005 Gulf Coast Cooperative acquired Petronila Grain Elevator in Robstown, Texas adding an additional 1450 car capacity and bringing our membership to 180 members.
In April 2007 Gulf Coast Cooperative and Chapman Ranch Gin joined together to form one organization under the Gulf Coast Cooperative name bringing membership to 207 with a Board of 15 members. The 2007 harvest season brought in a record crop of 2,180 cars of milo to the Robstown and Ricardo locations. Storage space was short in the surrounding counties for everyone. For this reason the Board made the decision to build an additional 300 car storage tank in Ricardo to bring capacity to 940 cars. That year ginning cotton got off to a late start due to weather. Once ginning was started in August both gin locations at Bishop and Chapman Ranch ginned a combined bale count of 68,000 bales.
The Board and Management will continue to expand services offered to their farmers and look for future growth during the years to come.