A Farm Aid T-shirt has quite a story, and I'm on a mission to find out more. I'm riding on a bus next to Darlene Vogler, organic cotton grower from Lamesa, Texas. Darlene attended Farm Aid 2011 in Kansas, and had never been anywhere where farmers are celebrated more. Concert-goers thanked her for being a farmer!
The bus pulls off the highway onto dusty red soiled roads so we can get into the fields. Puffy cotton plants, almost ready to harvest, stretch to the horizon. Irrigation rigs arch above the fields.
The farmers and staff from TX Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC) lead this tour, and we can easily see that the drought has taken a toll this year. This is the lowest yield in 15 years, says the USDA Cotton Classification office. The farmers are disappointed, of course, but thankful for loyal buyers of the crop.
Anvil Knitwear is the biggest buyer of US organic cotton, and TOCMC is the biggest producer of US organic cotton. I'm so impressed by the farmers, whose perseverance through drought and adversity is strengthened by their solid cooperation with each other. The 30 farmer members cultivate about 10,000 acres. Rotation crops include peanuts, beans, wheat, and blackeyed peas. The farms are organically certified by the TX Department of Agriculture. The farmers grow what is ordinarily a highly chemically produced crop without the use of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Livestock compost builds up the soil and farmers save their own seeds.
Farm Aid is always pleased to participate with sponsors and supporters in telling the story of farmers who grow our food and fiber. Anvil Knitwear produces Farm Aid T-shirts from these farmers. The organic cotton seeds become high nutrient feed for dairy cows on Horizon Organic farms. And another of our supporters, Chipotle Mexican Grill, was on the tour because they are sourcing organic cotton for their uniforms.
It takes all of us to help farmers thrive, growing crops in a way that is good for the soil and for us.
I love wearing my organic/transitional cotton T-shirt from TX farmers. What a talkative shirt!