Monday, March 21, 2016

California Sustainable Cotton Following Footsteps of the Local Food Movement

You may have heard the phrase “Dirt to shirt.”

It’s often a catchy marketing campaign tracing the exact route it takes to create a T-shirt – from the farmer planting the cotton seed to the manufacturer producing a shirt. If you map out the route, it is likely to take you on a long journey covering thousands of miles and many destinations.

So it’s safe to assume you’re not going to find cotton growersat the local farmer’s market and have the chance to ask them about how they grew their fiber. Or is it? That day may come sooner than you think.

Let’s take you back to little more than a year ago. That’s when outdoor apparel marker The North Face unveiled the limited edition Backyard Hoodie, following the company’s vision of sourcing and manufacturing a product within 150 miles of its headquarters in Alameda.

Backyard Hoodie used sustainable cotton.  (North Face photo)
The North Face’s innovative move paralleled the local food movement by working directly “with the local farmer and talent to build a product with local roots,” Adam Mott, the company’s director of sustainability said at the time.

Those cotton growers included family farmers involved with the Sustainable Cotton Project SCP (SCP)here in the San Joaquin Valley.

Now we take you to last week when employees from The North Face and sister brands Jansport and Lucy in Alameda held their own kind of sustainable marketplace called VFC Spirit Week. That’s when employees had the opportunity to learn more about the Central Valley farmers and the environmentally friendly Cleaner Cotton™ they grow.

While they only came face to photo with cotton growers, fashion designer, educator and SCP marketing expert Lynda Grose filled in aptly to tell the growers’ story. (By the way, if you don’t know, VF Corporation is a $12 billion company featuring 30 major brands such as North Face, Vans, Wrangler and Jansport. Their sustainability goal includes purchasing more cotton that qualifies as sustainable.)

This display at Spirit Week tells story of SCP cotton growers.
SCP participated in Spirit Week’s “Conservation Wednesday.” Company associates learned about conservation, waste and carbon footprint reduction while learning that SCP growers avoid the most toxic chemicalsused in the fiber’s production and follow practices that protect our environment.

“People were surprised at the fine quality fabrics possible using Cleaner Cotton™ Pima and acala cotton,” says Lynda Grose, a fashion designer, educator and SCP’s marketing expert. “They learned about the work of SCP and the benefits of Cleaner Cotton™. They were able to see the various stages of cotton processing from seed to finished fabric.”

While the event wasn’t quite a farmer’s market, it was certainly a step in the right direction. We can’t wait for the day to come when consumers get first-hand the story of cotton from growers.

Field Day Alert: Don’t miss the first field day of the year by the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project. The free event is set for Wednesday, March 30, from 9:30 a.m. m to 12:30 pm. at the Firebaugh Mendota United Methodist Church, 1660 O Street, Firebaugh. The field day will provide alfalfa, almond and cotton growers with important information about pesticide use and reduced risk strategies for controlling pests while protecting water, soil and air quality in the Valley. The line-up of speakers: UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management extension advisor Dr. Pete Goodell; Merced County-based UC Cooperative Extension Pomologist David Doll; and Orvil McKinnis of the Westside San Joaquin River Watershed Coalition. Continuing education credits will be available. Spread the word.

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