West Texas & Organic Cotton

A few months ago we took a trip to West Texas to visit the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC). We’re getting the cotton for our pants through TOCMC, and it seem like it would be a good idea to pay them a visit.  That’s what we did, and it was super fun and really interesting.

Lubbock, Texas – in West Texas – happens to be the center of US organic cotton production, and it’s also where TOCMC is located. We got there by flying to Albuquerque, NM – and then driving with a “detour“ to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. (Note:  there are quicker ways to get to Lubbock for sure …. This way added about a jillion extra hours of driving, but it WAS awesome to climb Guadalupe Peak – the highest point in Texas at about 8600 feet.)

Anyway, it was a ton of driving but we made it to Lubbock and met up with the folks at TOCMC and spent most of the day with them in the cotton fields and at the cotton gin learning about their operations. The area around Lubbock is particularly well-suited for the production of organic cotton because of its elevation, soil, and climate. In particular, it gets cold enough in the winter months to limit insect pressure – plus, the relatively cold weather they get in the area helps make the cotton ready for harvest without use of chemicals.

Conventional cotton is one of the world’s most toxic crops – and requires extensive inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well as a lot of irrigation. Organic cotton, by contrast, is grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, it takes less water, and it’s better for the environment overall. That’s why it’s such a priority for us to make our products with organic cotton as much as possible.  And we’re especially excited to be able to support US farmers like the growers who are involved with the Texas Co-op.

We went to a couple of farms to see where the cotton is grown. I grew up on a farm and have been around farms all my life, but I definitely wasn’t used to farm operations of the scale they have in Texas – with literally thousands of acres in cultivation and enormous equipment. (I mean, I know that sounds like a cliché – that “it’s all bigger in Texas” … but that was definitely true here.)

Dusty as all get out here too!

We also visited the cotton gin where they began to process the cotton. There were enormous machines here too.

They press the cotton with a huge amount of pressure using hydraulic presses like this.

The output of the press are bales like these. Each weighs a little less than 500 pounds.

These eventually make their way to the mills that weave the cloth we use in our pants! Rough numbers – but my estimate is that each pair of our 100% cotton pants contains about a pound of organic cotton. (9 ounces to the yard, 1.8 yards per pair = just over 1 pound.)

Interestingly, the cotton seed is left over when they process the cotton (see the pic of a big pile of it below) …. But they use that part as well – as feed supplement for dairy cows.  The cows apparently love it! The fats in the cotton seed also boost the milkfat percentage of the milk the cows produce, which makes richer ice cream. Who knew? (But how awesome is that?!)

Anyway, that’s a little about organic cotton in West Texas. We’re stoked to provide a bit more of a market for this awesome product grown right here in the US, and we appreciate your support for this as well! You can read more about our overall commitment to organic here.