South West Farm Press Logo

Jeannie Hileman: Blazing a trail in cotton industry

Western Planters Cotton Gin Manager Jeannie Hileman has accomplished a lot of firsts in the ginning industry, including being the first woman inducted into the Oklahoma Cotton Hall of Fame.

Shelley E. Huguley, Editor

April 28, 2023

17 Slides

Oklahoma ginner Jeannie Hileman is blazing a trail in the Southwest cotton industry. Not only was she the first female to become a certified ginner through the National Cotton Ginners’ Association’s Southwest Ginners School but recently the first woman to be inducted into the Oklahoma Cotton Hall of Fame.

While being the “first female” isn’t a title she wears like a badge, she says if it helps a woman feel comfortable about entering the industry, she’s proud to have led the way. “It’s kind of like a vehicle. I tell people I drive it; I don’t wear it. And that’s like this.”

Farm Press spoke with Hileman in March as she visited booths at the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association (TCGA) 115th Annual Meeting and Cotton Trade Show, Lubbock. She discussed the value of the combined annual gin school and trade show, not only to her career but employees as well.

“I started back in 2004, bringing my crew up here,” she recalled. “I would register my guys to come to gin school and last minute they would find a way to weasel out of going. I wouldn’t even know they hadn’t gone.”

That’s when she decided to bring them herself, which eventually led to her attending the school and becoming the region’s first certified female ginner. “As far as being able to manage a cotton gin and do repairs and figure out what we need, this has been the best resource I’ve ever had,” Hileman said.

Continuing education hours and camaraderie bring her back each year. “In Oklahoma, gins are few and far between, so in order to talk with guys who have experience, you’ve got to go where they are.

“You’ve got the industry people, plus you’re still running into so many knowledgeable people. It’s invaluable as far as the contacts you make.”

Ginning career

Over the last 33 years, Hileman has managed two Oklahoma cotton gins including Carnegie Gin in Carnegie, where she started as seasonal office help in 1990, only to be promoted to manager by the mid-90s and years later spearheaded the construction of Carnegie’s new gin north of town. She was there for 30 years. Today, she manages Western Planters Cotton Gin in Hobart – the state’s largest gin plant when “it runs at capacity,” she told Farm Press in a 2020 interview.

Recently, she was recognized for her years of service and industry impact. Hileman and the late-Wayne Winsett, a producer from Elmer, were inducted into the Cotton Hall of Fame by the Oklahoma Cotton Council during OCC’s annual Denim Ball. The event, hosted in Oklahoma City, is a fundraiser for The Committee for the Advancement of Cotton, the political action committee for the U.S. cotton industry.

OCC Executive Director Harvey Schroeder, who’s known Hileman for about 18 years, praised her eagerness to serve state and national-level organizations to improve the ginning industry. “She has always worked to do the best for her producers and the gins she manages. I am very proud to have Jeannie as one of my board of directors,” he said.

“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame was a humbling experience,” Hileman told Farm Press this week. “It was a wonderful entry in the final chapter of my career.” Hileman, who’s approaching retirement, plans to complete her final contractual year with Western Planters and then serve in a lesser capacity.


For women considering a career in the industry, Hileman, who was also recognized as a Significant Woman in Agriculture in 2018, advises, “We’re no different than the guys,” she says. “You’ve just got to blaze through it and get it done.”

Working in a male-dominated field has come with its challenges. “The gin, agriculture was definitely a man’s world. I didn’t try to convince them how smart I was. I just went ahead and learned what I needed to learn. If you’re doing your job and doing it well, everyone knows it,” she says. “Get it done, do your job and do it right and remember you don’t have to answer to anyone except yourself as far as doing things right.”

Take a look at the attached slideshow and catch a glimpse of this year’s TCGA Trade Show.

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like