Preserving The Land And Farming Lifestyle Are The Goals Of These Family Farming Operations That Represent Five States In The Cotton Belt.
• By Amanda Huber,
Southeast Editor •
Wrangler, the iconic global jeanswear and casual apparel company, has partnered with cotton producers to create a locally sourced denim collection honoring land stewardship and sustainability on the farm. Using the cotton from each highlighted farm, Wrangler has made five state-specific designed jeans and other promotional apparel.
In doing so, it has also allowed the farmers to talk about why farming is important to them and what they are doing on their operations to sustain their family and way of life.
A Welcome Opportunity
One of those farmers is Eugene Pugh III, a fifth-generation farmer from Double Bridges, Tennessee, who along with his family and “really good crew,” as he calls them, grows cotton, corn and soybeans.
“I’m glad Wrangler is giving us the opportunity to tell the world that we are good stewards of the land and that we run a sustainable farm,” Pugh says. In both promotional materials and social media formats, such as YouTube, Pugh talks about the practices on his farm that promote soil health.
“We plant cover crops in the fall, which is a good, sustainable practice,” he explains. “The cover crops we plant are legumes, grasses and radishes. We plant those to reduce erosion and build soil health.”
Restoring Soil Health
Representing Texas, cotton farmer Vance Smith, along with his wife, Mandie, talks about returning soil health to his West Texas farm through sustainable practices.
“It looks like a different world than when I started 13 years ago,” Smith says. “We have our soil health back to where it should be. In the spring, you go out and dig down, and it’s soft and just smells like good, healthy soil.”
The soil-health practices he uses include sub-surface drip irrigation, reduced tillage, cover crops and crop rotation.
“We are constantly innovating; constantly changing and upgrading,” Smith says of the cotton and corn row crops, as well as his cattle operation in Big Spring, Texas. “We’re being more environmentally friendly every day.”
A Love Of The Land
The McLendon family and their farm, McLendon Acres, is the subject of the Georgia jean.
“Our whole farming outlook has sustainability at its core,” says Adam McLendon, who now manages the 8,800-acre operation. His father, Marty McLendon, started the Leary, Georgia, farm in 1980.
“Soil health is really important to our operation. We use crop rotation, variable rate application and irrigation management, plus cover crops to maintain soil health on our farm.”
McLendon says of the opportunity to sell directly to Wrangler and be a part of the sustainable-cotton program, “I’d like everyone to know how much we as farmers love the land and love our jobs.”
The Newby family has been growing cotton on their land in Athens, Alabama, for seven generations and was chosen by Wrangler to be the source of cotton for its Alabama jean. Typical cotton production on their land is no-till, uses cover crops, and, where irrigated, relies on soil moisture probes to conserve water.
The farm is jointly run by Jimmy Newby and his children, James Newby, John Newby, Jerry Allen Newby and Elizabeth Newby Crow.
“It’s great when your children want to do the same thing you do and help preserve this farming way of life for the next generations,” says patriarch, Jimmy Newby.
Art, Science And A Lot Of Faith
In Conway, North Carolina, Donny Lassiter’s family works to grow cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins on several thousand acres that was first farmed by his grandfather in 1944 when he returned from World War II.
In their row-crop operation, they use GPS and take soil samples to create a prescription for fertilizer applications in every field, ensuring the right amount is used. They also plant cover crops and everything is in no-till production.
As Lassiter says, “Farming is part experience, part art, part science and a lot of faith.”
Supporting U.S. Cotton
For its part in creating the “Rooted Collection,” Wrangler says this endeavor reflects their commitment to strengthening local communities and supporting U.S. farmers.
Tom Waldron, president of Wrangler, says, “Equally important, the introduction of this collection aligns with our goal to continually improve the environmental performance and traceability of our products.” Besides being 100% locally grown, each piece of the limited, premium line is also milled, cut and sewn in the United States.
The company launched the Wrangler Science and Conservation Program in 2017 to advocate for land stewardship and soil health best practices in the supply chain.
Wrangler’s sustainable cotton program partners now include Cotton Incorporated, Soil Health Institute, the E3 growing platform, Field to Market, Texas Alliance for Water Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, North Carolina State University, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and others.
By 2020, Wrangler’s goal is to leverage collaborative training and improvement programs for its cotton farmers to enhance the sustainability of both the fiber supply and the U.S. cotton industry at large.
Wrangler Rooted Collection
The Wrangler Rooted Collection is a limited, premium line made from 100% sustainable, locally sourced cotton. Each piece is grown, milled, cut and sewn in the United States, helping to ensure America’s denim heritage for future generations.
The collection features five state-specific designs. For example, the Tennessee Jean is made with 100% sustainable cotton from Pugh Farms, a family farm in Halls, Tennessee. The jean has a unique wash, as well as trim and patch details featuring the state’s silhouette and other embellishments.
The Pughs and the four other family farms who are supplying cotton to the Rooted Collection are the original growers in the Wrangler Science and Conservation program, which advocates for land stewardship and best practices for soil health. These science-backed methods build crop resilience to weather disruptions while improving yield, reducing water and energy inputs, fighting erosion, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Wrangler aims to source 100% of its cotton from farms using soil health practices by 2025.
The Rooted Collection with sustainably sourced cotton is all-American, from the farm to the fabric to the cut and sew operations. The collection includes:
• The Alabama Jean from Newby Family Farms of Athens, Alabama.
• The Georgia Jean from McLendon Acres of Leary, Georgia.
• The North Carolina Jean from Lassiter Family Farms of Conway, North Carolina.
• The Texas Jean from Vance and Mandie Smith of Big Spring, Texas.
The jeans are cut and sewn by Excel Manufacturing in El Paso, Texas.
Wrangler contributed this information.