Jerry Allen Newby plans on wearing his 2017 cotton harvest. As the Alabama farmer drives a picker into a sea of Alabama cotton under the painted blue sky of a clear October day, Newby is gathering fiber from his family fields, but he’s also collecting his clothes for 2018.
“Made in the USA” and the American farmer just got a big boost from Wrangler. In an effort to highlight the sustainability of the cotton industry, Wrangler is purchasing 40,000 lb. of Newby Farms cotton to feature in a line of denim jeans. Wrangler’s Healthy Soils Platform is piloting with Newby Farms in Athens, Ala., but will expand to particular growers in all 17 cotton states.
“I feel like Wrangler’s sustainability initiative is also an American initiative. Maybe this is cotton’s version of food to table,” seventh-generation producer Newby explains. “People will know where their jeans come from and they’ll know the jeans were literally grown in the United States.”
Utilizing a mix of no till, variable rate application, soil moisture sensors and cover crops, Newby’s growing methods mirror the initiative driving Wrangler’s new effort. “No-till, crop rotation, cover cropping, soil grid mapping, variable rate, IPM, and water efficiency are all practices we want in our cotton products. Within 10 years, we want all our products to contain cotton grown sustainably,” says Roian Atwood, director of sustainability at Wrangler.
Jeans made entirely from Newby cotton will be available in fall 2018. Atwood says Wrangler’s sustainability initiative will extend across the Cotton Belt: “We want to become familiar with the different cotton farming communities and never be overly prescriptive. Our soil health practices are going to vary from region to region and this will be a sampler’s platter. We want this program to encourage land commitment and stewardship.”
The Newby family typically grows 3,000 cotton acres per year and is a partner in Moore and Newby Gin, which churned out 7,500 bales in 2016. “It’ll be great to see jeans straight out of our fields, but we’re excited because this could be a real shot in the arm for American cotton in general. A ‘Made in America’ tag shows the importance of farming and can help make the public realize the necessity of a strong agricultural backbone.”