Next time you pull on a pair of sturdy Wrangler jeans, thank a cotton farmer. North Carolina cotton farmer Donny Lassiter is a participant in the Wrangler Science and Conservation program; Lassiter’s cotton is used to make specially branded jeans that celebrate sustainability, North Carolina state pride and land stewardship.
“The idea for the program actually started with a group of progressive ranchers who were using grassland management techniques for healthier soil,” says Roian Atwood, director of sustainability at Wrangler. “We were so impressed by what they were doing that we asked if this could be applied to row crops and cotton. We wanted to go after this ability to say that the cotton in our jeans is meaningful and sustainable, so we explored the idea of finding growers who embraced this land stewardship and started learning from them.”
See more: United States Cotton Facts
Wrangler chose five states for the program – North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas – and worked with seed companies to get in touch with cotton growers like Lassiter.
Lassiter farms 4,500 acres of cotton in Creeksville with his father and brother. They also grow peanuts, soybeans, corn and pumpkins.
The Lassiters incorporate several sustainability practices into their farm, and are committed to true land stewardship.
“We have a variety of crops, which plays into the soil health,” Lassiter says. “And we use cover crops in the winter to hold the soil in place with heavy rains and winds, as well as hold nutrients and act as natural weed control. We’re also no-till.”
Lassiter says they got in touch with Atwood through one of their seed companies, and Atwood was really impressed with their farming practices.
“Through that came the idea of tracing the cotton back through the supply chain and telling the story of the farmer, sustainability and the environment,” Lassiter says.
See more: From Field to Fiber: Cotton’s Journey
From Boll to Blue Jean
Atwood says that the process of going from the field to the final product can sometimes take in excess of 12 months. Everyone involved understands the vision of the Rooted collection and takes special care throughout the process. The jeans themselves feature custom shanks, rivets, patches and pocket prints as a nod to the specific state and its farmers.
“It kind of feels like a craft beer or a fine wine, with the attention to detail,” Atwood says. “It was heartwarming to see everyone’s reaction along the line.”
Both parties – Wrangler and the farmers involved – take pride in creating a product that celebrates not only agriculture’s sustainable practices, but American pride as well.
“We grow mostly commodities, so once they leave the farm, we don’t know where they end up,” Lassiter says. “Knowing that the pair of jeans you have on is the cotton we grew on our farm is amazing. It’s also getting the information out through this program and for people outside the farming community to learn about why we do what we do.”
Atwood agrees, and says that Wrangler is proud to highlight its connection to innovative American growers who are leading the next generation.
“All industries evolve and are beginning to embrace new sustainable technology that betters their footprint and profile,” he says. “That has taken place in agriculture and we want to be a part of it. Those growers who are thinking progressively and innovatively, they’re on the cutting edge.”
He adds that Wrangler plans to expand the Rooted collection, possibly to other states and other sustainable avenues.
“The more we can push the conversation to see how these practices evolve, the better,” he says. “That’s what Rooted hopes to do. Be part of the conversation.”