Shoppers worldwide will soon be able to purchase Alabama-grown cotton jeans thanks to a pilot program by Wrangler.
Partnering with Newby Farms, which is seven generations strong, the company is promoting sustainably grown U.S. cotton clothing.
“Wrangler was looking for a multi-generational family farm that employed good stewardship tactics,” said Jerry Allen Newby, a Limestone County farmer. “We were fortunate they chose us. We know there are lots of good farmers in the state who are doing the same things we are doing.”
Wrangler committed to buy one container, or about 80 bales, of Newby Farms' cotton in 2017. This cotton will create a blue jeans line available for purchase online in 2018 that’s traceable to the Newbys’ farm. Wrangler will create promotion materials, including videos, to explain the transformation of cotton seed to clothing.
Cotton grown by the Newbys is Bayer CropScience’s sustainable cotton, also known as e3. Third-party, independent auditors certify farmers’ commitment to grow e3 cotton in an “environmentally responsible, economically viable, and socially equitable manner.”
Wrangler officials say they aren’t sure if jeans from the Newbys' e3 cotton will be for men or women, and an exact release date hasn’t been announced. No matter when they’re available, the new line of jeans has the Newby family excited.
“This program is putting a face with the farmer,” said Elizabeth Newby Crow. “A lot of people have no clue what a farmer looks like.”
Siblings Jerry Allen and Elizabeth farm with their uncle, Jimmy Newby, cousins John and James Newby, and Elizabeth’s husband Justin. The Newbys said the Wrangler partnership is a chance to elevate the U.S. cotton industry.
“If we don’t promote ourselves as an industry, no one else will,” John Newby said. “For the American cotton industry to survive, we need to be selling to the end user of the product. Farmers and clothing manufacturers need to work together to promote sustainable, high-quality, American-grown cotton.”
This push to market U.S. cotton comes as competition from synthetic fibers is steadily increasing. The Newbys said they are proud of how their cotton is grown using less water, fewer chemicals, conservation tillage and precision agriculture technologies.
“A lot of people don’t realize their athletic wear is not a sustainable product,” Elizabeth said. “These synthetic materials are petroleum based. Wrangler is trying to bring some focus to people who don’t normally shop in their markets by showing them this cotton fiber is grown close to their homes in an environmentally friendly way.”
Jerry Allen represented farmers at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Detroit, Michigan in May and spoke on a panel regarding the future of agricultural sustainability. He said questions covered fertilizer use, runoff and agriculture technologies.
“While I was in Detroit I had two ladies from the northern Midwest ask me if we still pick cotton by hand,” he said. “That made me realize even more that we need to educate our country about agriculture. Hopefully this Wrangler partnership will shed some light on the way the cotton industry has evolved.”
The opportunity to represent the cotton industry and Wrangler at the conference was enjoyable, said Jerry Allen, who is Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers chairman.
“A farmer sometimes gets painted as a person who takes advantage of the land and is just trying to get rich,” he said. “Wrangler realizes there are a lot of good farmers in this country who are doing their part to pass on the land, take care of it and grow a good safe product for the people of the world.”
For more information on Wrangler’s sustainability efforts, visit tinyurl.com/WranglerSustainability.