Community Coverage: Olton's Economy Growing With And Beyond Cotton

A vast agriculture empire, that was the goal W.P. Soash had when he purchased 87,000 acres of the C.C. Slaughter Ranch back in 1900.  Eight years later, part of that land was platted and Olton became the first town in Lamb County.

For nearly 100 years now, Olton has established itself as a farming community, but they're also learning to thrive by expanding their business market.  Cotton is one of the leading industries, though local farmers are expanding to corn and wheat.  Downtown Olton is also thriving, and there's a flowering business that calls the sand hills home.

Cotton is king in Olton.

"This gin has been here since 1944. We had a little gin in town and moved here in 1953. So they've been growing cotton in the Olton area for a long time," Manager of the Olton Co-op Gin Chris Breedlove said.

The Olton Co-op Gin is know for it's fast pace and high quality.

"Last five years, we've been averaging around 80,000. Last year, we did over 100,000 bails. First time the gin's ever ginned that much cotton, so we're sort of proud of that," Breedlove said. 

During the season, around 90 workers can rush 60 bails an hour out of their newest plant. The crew made Olton's the number one producing gin in the state following the 2002-2003 season.

"Cotton's been here for a long time, and it's not going away, and we're going to be here to gin it for them," Breedlove said.

"We're all such a close knit group," Maybell Bizzell, owner of Bizzell's, said.

She made downtown Olton her headquarters back in 1950.

"The love of small community, I could have gone to a bigger town. I like doing what I'm doing now with my neighbors and friends," Bizzell said.

Her shop joins several others that draws folks to downtown.

"It's just so homey.  Everybody in Olton makes you feel so welcome," Manager of Treasures Unlimited Carol Redinger said.

When the town's grocery store closed last year, residents were crushed.   Then, Tanya Noack stepped in, making her an instant lifesaver.

"It's crazy.  I really didn't ever think about opening it, and I was approached with it, and just prayed about it, and I think that's what my calling was for, open a grocery store. The town really needed it,"  Owner of Leon's II grocery store Noack said.

A flowering business since the early 80's sits just outside of town.

"We ship cannas all over the world," President of Agri-Gold Michael McFadden said.

The company has nearly 300 acres and 61 varieties of cannas, growing in the sand hills south of town, and while the flowers are beautiful, the money is in the bulb.

"There's only, probably, four other growers in the U.S.," McFadden said.

During the season ,around 70 people tend to the fields, and that's one of the reason's McFadden stays in Olton.

"Olton provides the labor that we need. The sand hills provide the land that we need, and this is where I grew up, this is home," McFadden said.

Another event that brings a lot of money into Olton each year is a pheasant hunt.  Hunters come from across the country to hunt for a two day weekend with locals as their guides.

Learn More About Olton
Get more coverage from the community of Olton.