From Field To Home

How An Alabama Father-Daughter Duo Weave Storytelling And Textiles Into Red Land Cotton

⋅ BY CASSIDY NEMEC ⋅
ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Mark and Anna Yeager have long made their mark on their neck of the woods in Moulton, Alabama. When Anna graduated with her degree in graphic design from Auburn University, she went to work in advertising up north in New York City. After a move and a few years in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, she was approached with an idea from her dad in 2016 that would change the direction of her career forever. Mark’s idea? Red Land Cotton.

“I felt like I could really be an asset to make it happen. I’m nothing if not an executioner,” Anna said.

She said she then used her senior thesis as a template for their Red Land Cotton business plan. From there, the rest was history.

The Farm

Mark Yeager is first-generation as far as large-scale farming goes. His father had a small farm and was a business owner as well. That combination of the agriculture and business mindset passed down to Mark as he began growing cotton and corn and raising cattle at the foot of the Bankhead National Forest in North Alabama in 1983. 

Mark built his very own cotton gin in 1994, which gave him more control over the quality of their cotton. They originally ran it as a custom gin where they would gin customer cotton. He said after six or seven years, they turned it into strictly their own. 

“I’m lucky I’ve got an employee who’s multi-talented,” Mark said. “He runs the gin in the fall while the rest of us pick cotton. That makes it very doable.”

His two sons, Mark Jr. and Joe, farm alongside him, and they have seven other full-time employees at the farm and gin. They planted all Deltapine cotton varieties this year including the DP 2141NR, DP 1646, DP 2239, and DP 2038. Typically, they will rotate cotton two-to-one with corn. 

Mark said he sees them continuing to try and grow a better cotton crop down the road. “Cotton is my favorite crop. It is something that I truly do like.”

“I think something that sets Red Land apart is that they have their own cotton gin and are able to gin cotton the way that they want to and have the control over picking the bales that are best,” Anna said.

From Yeager Gin to Red Land Cotton, the Yeagers have 100% say in how their cotton is managed and where it goes. “We’re totally vertical,” Mark said.

The Business

All Red Land cotton products are 100% made in America. 

In 2017, the Yeagers bought a place on the downtown square in Moulton and hired their first Red Land Cotton employee. That space was used as their home base until they built the warehouse in 2020 in which they occupy now. 

Anna said one of the first things they did when they started Red Land Cotton was hire a retired textile consultant by the name of Jack Miller out of Greenville, South Carolina.

“As far as someone who assists pretty heavily in supply chain management and things of that nature, he would be up there.”

Anna and her dad handle most of the business aspects. She said they have quality control, customer service and order fulfillment employees at the warehouse who make everything they do possible. The front of the warehouse includes a retail space where people are able to come see, touch and feel the product offerings.

“I enjoy what I always enjoyed, which is creating stuff…telling stories, crafting narratives and creating the assets and products around those narratives,” she said.

In addition to their Alabama farm, gin and warehouse, Red Land Cotton has a cut-and-sew facility in Tylertown, Mississippi.

Anna noted the massive e-commerce and retail boom that took place in 2020. “Nobody was able to keep up with it,” she said. “Supply chain was just a cluster.”

She said they seem to be able to better iterate and grow by offering apparel options in addition to their classic bedding offerings. “There seems to be more opportunity in narrow goods than in wide goods domestically, but sheeting is our No. 1 best-seller,” she said, noting that is what gets people hooked on their brand.

She said Red Land Cotton has been fortunate to grow 20% to 30% each year they have been in business. “I feel like we have a lot of reason to be optimistic.”

The Overlap With Textiles

So what makes Red Land Cotton different? 

“I think what Red Land Cotton has been able to do very well is tell a truly transparent story from start to finish but also have a pulse on our customer.” She said they have been able to iterate on their products and expand their offerings because of their customer base and listening to what they would like.

“There’s definitely a balancing act here with inventory and new product and meeting customer needs, but what I feel is the success of that are companies like Room & Board and our recent collaborator Banana Republic. These larger companies are seeing us as a resource for a domestic product.” 

“To me, that is proof we are putting ourselves out there as a reputable supplier to not only a direct-to-consumer relationship but also to brands that are looking to have a domestic supply chain to tell this story along with us.”

Anna said this is all not without risk and personal capital being poured into their vision, but the growth they have witnessed over the years has been all the proof they need to keep going.

“I would love to see more strategic partnerships that we can leverage the community that is the U.S.-textile supply chain to continue to lift it up and make it more successful,” Anna said. “Really, a lot of the setbacks, quality issues or limitations that we have are really because the U.S.-textile supply chain has been so decimated over the past few years.”

Mark commented on the troublesome state of the textile industry as it stands now.

“We’re importing everything,” he said, emphasizing that an astounding amount of U.S. cotton is exported overseas where it is sewed, milled and sent back, draining profits in America. “U.S. agriculture is the biggest, most efficient machine in the world with the ability to feed and clothe, and the majority of the country thinks we’re evil.”

Anna mentioned the current state of cobalt as it relates to China’s restrictions is part of the story as well. “All of the farming equipment now relies on those chips. It impacts everything.”

She emphasized her desire to collaborate, tell more stories and bring more awareness in order to build the textile industry back up, noting it would help everyone in the long haul.

The End Goal

Anna and Mark have become a well-known father-daughter duo in the cotton industry, and they are enjoying their careers as they continue to take shape. “I love the challenge,” Mark said.

“I really believe in the purpose of Red Land Cotton — not only that it’s a good product and good business but that it’s also trying to lift up small towns and a textile industry that’s waning,” Anna said. “It gives us a platform to talk about agriculture — we’re a much more tangible thing for them to see and understand.

“I think agriculture can be abstract to a lot of people — even people who live locally as funny as that is — I think there’s a part of that in when the mills went away and you stopped seeing the raw product be converted into something that you use in your daily life.

“If we can educate more with this platform, I think that gives much more added value.”

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