From Dirt to Shirt—Cotton’s Field to Fork Story

Since the end of the second world war, the Lassiter family has stewarded their farm ground in North Carolina and Virginia. The family has been no-till for 20 years and used cover crops for 18 years. The Lassiters grow cotton, peanuts, wheat, rye, non-GMO soybeans and corn. They utilize a complex rotation to improve their soil and keep it productive for generations to come.

“We started with no-till soybeans behind double crop wheat and after that we moved to no tilling cotton,” 41-year-old Donny Lassiter says. “We didn’t jump straight from conventional to no till though, we went conventional to strip till and then moved to no till. Cotton was probably the biggest challenge for no till because you plant so shallow. It’s tough to get good seed to soil contact.”

It took a lot of experimenting with no-till in cotton before pulling the trigger on every acre, he says. They finally made the switch 12 years ago on cotton acres, too. Cover crops were a natural addition to the family’s stewardship program.

Today, the Lassiters are showcasing their conservation and stewardship efforts in partnership with Wrangler. In its “Rooted” program, Wrangler selects farmers who fit into the company’s broader commitment to sustainability under its We Care sustainability platform.

“We’re launching Texas and Alabama first and the final three states, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina, on July 4th,” says Roian Atwood, Wrangler director of sustainability. “With Rooted, we identified that sustainable cotton is defined by growers that utilize three key practices: cover crops, conservation tillage and the use of a complex rotation.”

Farmers selected for the program share farm-level data with Wrangler, who’ve partnered with MyFarms to capture on farm inputs and report back performance in the Fieldprint Platform. It allows the company to look at the data and visualize how each farmer stacked up to others in their state.

“It highlights the ability to have traceable fiber back to the farm, while celebrating the grower and the state in which they produce, to concretely verify this is better for the land and environment,” Atwood says. He says programs like this prove traceability has value and the opportunity to become commonplace.

“Information can be shared with fabric mills, brands, and eventually consumers,” he says. “We’re trying to get to this with set targets and goals and we’re watching it closely and excited for when traceability becomes more widely available in the industry process.”

The jeans are grown and manufactured in the U.S. and can be purchased online. The new jeans feature a farmer signature on the inside pocket, and several trim items and embellishments that picture the state silhouette from which the cotton originated. Wrangler has about 17,000 units for sale of this project.

“At the end of the day this is the farmers’ stories, not Wrangler’s,” Atwood says. “We’re celebrating what growers do to steward the land. The Rooted collection lives at the intersection of Wrangler’s heritage and commitment that farmers have to land stewardship to grow sustainable, traceable cotton.”