Tag archive

Cotton Industry

More Than an Old Pair of Jeans

At last, denim is returned to its natural cotton fiber state and upcycled into denim insulation. Photo courtesy of Stacey Gorman.

or many, those old, worn out denim favorites mean nothing. Shoving them in the back of your dresser drawer, throwing them in the back of your closet, or putting them in an old trash bag full of clothes is what you might do. However, thanks to a program sponsored by Cotton Incorporated, the worn denim favorite means sending a portion of your closet to a community in need. 

Blue Jeans Go Green is a program that Cotton Incorporated uses as an innovative research and promotion effort. The program helps to work across the country to collect denim and recycle it into UltraTouch denim insulation.

 According to Bonded Logic, UltraTouch Denim Insulation is the grouping of 35 years of insulation experience and a revolutionary patented manufacturing process, which creates a superior and safe productfrom high-quality natural fibers. Once it is recycled, the program then provides a portion of the denim insulation to communities in need each year. 

“The program started in 2006, and it has since then diverted more than 2 million pieces of old worn jeans that have been repurposed into a usable product,” said Stacey Gorman, director of communications for the Cotton Board.

According to Cotton Incorporated Blue Jeans Go Green website, with the help of people like you and I, the program has recycled over 1 million tons of denim, 2 million pieces of denim have been diverted from landfills, and 4 million square feet of denim insulation have been manufactured over the past 13 years. By recycling worn denim into insulation, Blue Jeans Go Green keeps textile waste out of landfills and helps with building homes in communities in need around the country. 

Gorman said the program has given Cotton Incorporated ways to show they are sustainable and make a positive impact on the communities around them. As awareness continues to grow and new opportunities become available to recipients, Blue Jeans Go Green expects to see continued growth over the next few years. 

There are opportunities to participate in the Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling process. Some of the many ways to do this is to mail your denim, take it to a local retailer, school or event, or sign up online to start your own drive for recycling old denim. 

Gorman said Cotton Incorporated started this program by collecting money from a check off program from cotton growers and investing it in research and promotion to help improve the profitability and the marketability of their costs. Gorman said Blue Jeans Go Green came from their consumer marketing division and it’s just a way to really associate cotton and fiber with a feel-good message to consumers.

“It’s really inspiring to get to work and be a part of something that is so unique,” Gorman said, “but also beneficial to the environment.”

Gorman said communicating about a program like this is an effort for consumers to think about their blue jeans and what they are doing to recycle them, while feeling good about how they can impact the environment.

“Finding ways to show that we’re sustainable and really make a positive impact on the communities around us is super important,” Gorman said. 

Through the program, Gorman said Cotton Incorporated has coordinated denim drives on 82 college campuses and there are various brands and retailers that like to get on board with the program as well. Anyone can apply to host a denim drive, whether big or small, any effort can make a big impact in your community. 

PhytoGen, a U.S. cottonseed brand, is partnering with Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program to help spread cotton’s sustainability message. PhytoGen and the National FFA Foundation and local FFA chapters will be collecting old denim at various events throughout 2019 located in Anaheim, California, Memphis, Tennessee, Lubbock, Texas, Chandler, Arizona, and Tifton, Georgia. 

Derek Racca is the brand manager for PhytoGen and is the spokesperson for the partnership. He graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural education and communications from Texas Tech University and is excited about moving forward with this program.

“We are thrilled to partner with Cotton Incorporated and Blue Jeans Go Green to essentially bring cotton full-circle,” Racca said. “This program helps the communities in which our customers live and work by keeping denim out of landfills, as well as playing a role in donating insulation to charities, such as Habitat for Humanity.” 

Participating FFA chapters will have from the date the invitation is received from their sponsor until their designated event time. This process gives each FFA chapter approximately four weeks to begin collecting as much denim as they can. During each FFA chapter’s designated event, a representative of each chapter must deliver the collected denim to the designated location where it will be weighed. 

Racca said all of the denim collected for this contest will be donated to Cotton Incorporated for their Blue Jeans Go Green program. The FFA chapter that collects the most denim, based on the weight of the denim collected and weighed by the representatives of Cotton Incorporated, will receive a $1,500 donation toward their chapter. 

Through this partnership, communities are working together to get FFA students involved in the program. It is important in the programs efforts to grow and continue to change communities one piece of denim at a time. 

“PhytoGen is proud to partner with the Blue Jeans Go Green program in the continuing effort to help communities and FFA chapters thrive,” Racca said. “Whether its denim jeans, jackets, shirts or skirts, every piece of denim makes a difference.”

Diamond in the Rough

Lauren and Shelley Heinrich
Lauren Heinrich (Left) and Shelley Heinrich (Right) use every opportunity they have to advocate for agriculture. They use their event venue as a tool to share about West Texas agriculture.

helley and Lauren Heinrich never planned on owning and running a wedding venue, however when they found the Kitalou Gin everything fell into place.

Rediscovering Kitalou 

The Kitalou Gins last year of operation was 1974. From Kitalou’s last crop year the gin was used as a scrapyard. It was left for ruins until 2017 when it was found and restored by the Heinrich family. The Heinrich’s are cotton farmers from Slaton, Texas.

The Kitalou Gin was built in 1925 when communities ginned their own cotton. Located right outside of Idalou, Texas, Kitalou was placed adjacent to a railroad for convenient distribution of freshly ginned cotton. Due to the gins proximity to the railroad, it is said the gin was named after a railroader’s daughter.

In 2017, Shelley Heinrich had a pumpkin business which was booming, and she needed space to store her abundance of pumpkins. Her daughter, Lauren, suggested using an abandoned gin, because so many are scattered around small West Texas towns.

The mother-daughter duo started looking around at perspective properties when Shelley’s husband, Burt, proposed the Kitalou Gin, just minutes from downtown Lubbock.

“Up close, just driving by, it looked like a junk yard,” Shelley said.

The yard was full of old equipment and dead trees. In some places the gin was full to the ceiling with old deteriorating equipment. Despite the looks of the gin, the building was in great shape.

Shelley and Lauren decided to take on the project, spending every spare moment they had cleaning out the old gin.

“We’ve got the equipment and the gumption to do it,” Lauren said.

The Heinrich’s farm and have a lot of equipment, which allowed Shelley and Lauren to do a lot of the work themselves. As a family, the Heinrichs spent nine months cleaning and restoring the gin.

“We’re not only a good mother-daughter team, but good partners.”

Shelley and Lauren did not originally plan to turn the gin into a wedding venue, but the more they cleaned the more they realized the gin was meant to be so much more than a warehouse to store pumpkins.

“It was like overwhelming chaos, because there was so much that we could do,” Shelley said.

Throughout the process one vision remained – to maintain the integrity and authenticity of the gin.

Unexpected Wedding Planners

Lauren said before finding Kitalou, being a wedding coordinator never crossed her mind.

“We have the skill set,” Shelley said, “we just never had the facility.”

The two have backgrounds in event planning, but nothing quite like wedding planning.

Before owning and running the Kitalou Gin, Shelley had a career in the finance industry and retired in 2011. However, her retirement did not last long. In 2013 she went back to work, but this time for commodity organizations, spending a few years with National Sorghum Producers before moving on to her current position with the Cotton Board. Lauren worked for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and then for a local congressman. In these roles, Shelley and Lauren gained skills in event coordination.

The Heinrichs runs every event themselves. From setting up to tearing down, they are there doing it all. On the day of an event, the family is there parking cars or helping with coordination. At the end of the night, they all get together to clean up the gin.

“When we started, our only goal was getting the bride down the aisle and after that we figured the rest out,” Lauren said.

The first wedding at Kitalou was for a family friend who asked to use the gin for her wedding. The definite timeline of this wedding helped motivate Shelley and Lauren to finish this project.

Even though the two cleaned on the gin for nine months, they were still picking up nails and pieces of metal out of the yard until the day of the first wedding.

A Unique Take on Agriculture 

Despite the disarray of the property, Shelley and Lauren decided to purchase the Kitalou Gin because of its unique location. Only minutes from downtown Lubbock, the location is convenient while still surrounded by farmland. Being surrounded by agriculture gives the Heinrichs a unique opportunity to share about West Texas agriculture.

Kitalou clients are drawn to the unique look and location of the gin.

“I grew up working in the feed yard riding the pens, working cattle, so growing up like that then going out to Kitalou and being surrounded by the farmland and cattle I just fell in love and felt at home”Bride Averye Ferris said.

Kitalou couples tend to come from agricultural backgrounds, however, their guests do not always share that likeness. Because the gin is surrounded by agriculture, with cattle and sheep across the road, lends to great conversations.

“If we’re not telling the story, then who is?” Shelley asked.

Shelley and Lauren have spent many hours at events educating guests on farming in West Texas. They will answer any questions guests have from genetically modified organisms use to water conservation.

As agriculture continues to progress, the Kitalou Gin will become more important to preserve. With the advances in agriculture small gins will become obsolete making Kitalou that much more important.

Mother Daughter Team

“We’re not only a good mother-daughter team, but good partners,” Shelley said.

They can each relate to their customers. Lauren was recently a bride and can understand their needs while Shelley understands the mothers and their perspective. Having their different perspectives helps with problem solving and creating the shared vision of the bride and her mom.

“We take the burden off the families backs and handle everything so they can sit back, relax and enjoy the day,” Lauren said.

Shelley and Lauren encourage their clients to be as creative as possible when dreaming up their big day.

“We’ve already been creative with restoring a gin, now it’s their turn,” said Lauren.

Reducing uncertainty on the Southern High Plains


arming practices on the Southern High Plains, and more specifically a farmer’s choice of whether or not to change them, are affected by irrigation methods and crop insurance.

Dr. Darren Hudson of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics is the graduate director and helps put together funding for research.

Dr. Hudson said, “We have students from all over doing research that impacts this area.”

Jorge Romero-Habeych is not your traditional student, he served in the Army and worked as an analyst in the natural gas industry before returning to school. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the University of Central Florida. As a doctoral student in Agricultural and Applied Economics, Romero-Habeych’s research explores how farmers choose irrigation techniques.

Agriculture on the Southern High Plains was significantly impacted by the introduction of center pivot irrigation.

 “Prior to the center pivot in the 1990s, … irrigation was very inefficient,” Romero-Habeych said.

By adopting center pivots farmers were able to sustain yields while using less water.

In recent years farmers have had the option of adopting an even more efficient alternative, subsurface drip irrigation. Adopting efficient irrigation techniques along with the right kind of crop insurance is essential for farmers to reduce their exposure to risk.

“Why is it that we don’t see a wider implementation of this technology in the area?” Romero-Habeych asked. “My theory is that crop insurance in conjunction with already existing irrigation techniques might be making drip irrigation less attractive,” Romero-Habeych said. “On the margin, adopting drip is relatively expensive and the benefit in terms of risk reduction is likely not worth the cost.”

In terms of water use, wider adoption of drip irrigation by farmers on the Southern High Plains does not necessarily translate to less pressure on the Ogallala aquifer. Romero-Habeych made an interesting point on the issue.

“Past experience with the center pivot shows that its adoption led to more water use. Farmers actually started using more water than before because they started planting in fields that had previously not been economically attractive,” Romero-Habeych said.

Using the most efficient farming practices possible is vital for all farmer’s to continue production and not give up yields.

“Perhaps drip irrigation would be more widely adopted in the area if existing crop insurance choices were not made available. The combination of current insurance and irrigation options to reduce risk exposure might be crowding out drip,” Romero-Habeych said. “However, that might be a good outcome for the aquifer.”

How farmers on the Southern High Plains are affected by government policies, along with understanding how they use the tools at their disposal to reduce uncertainty, is what drives Romero-Habeych’s research.

Farm Bill 2018: Cotton headed in a different direction

Cotton field pictured during the golden hour right before harvest.

LUBBOCK, TX – Given the deadline to revise a bill in 12 to18 months, cotton farmers and legislators are switching gears from lint to oil, seeking alternatives to aid the American cotton farmer to offset the impact of three years of low commodity prices.

Lint cotton prices started to decline in direct correlation with the World Trade Organization ruling against U.S. cotton in the case Brazil vs. United States in 2002.

“When Congress did the last farm bill one of the things they did was remove cotton out of the Title 1 because that was one of the sticking points,” said Darrin Hudson, Ph. D, Texas Tech University Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics professor, was a result of that ruling.

In doing so, lint cotton was removed from Title 1 and moved into the insurance title of the farm bill.

Title 1 programs are traditional farm income and price support mechanisms. Other commodities in Title 1 receive payments equal to the difference between the legislated price and what the market price is. Essentially, if the market price is above the legislated price, the farmer/producer receives no payment.

Executive Vice President of Plains Cotton Growers Inc., Steve Verett said, “the [insurance program] was not going to provide the kind of risk management cotton farmers needed for the long-term price decline.”

“We’ve been looking at any other option or other ways that we can try to provide that Title 1 support,” Verett said.

Aside from assessing risk, cotton is a unique crop from the standpoint that it produces two co-products, lint and cottonseed oil, which Verett said is just as valuable as vegetable oil.

With oil seeds comprising a significant amount of products in the U.S. there happens to be a minor oilseed title in the farm bill.

“A thing about the minor oilseeds is, individually, there are very small acres but in aggregate they are an important component. And so they deserve that protection,” said Shawn Wade, director of policy analysis and research for Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Cottonseed oil recognition is at the forefront of Plains Cotton Growers Inc.’s agenda for this upcoming Farm Bill revision. Verett and Wade advocated for cottonseed oil to be recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Though cottonseed oil was not accepted in the minor oilseed title, the Secretary did hear the public and issued a one-time payment for the sharing of ginning cost.

Want to voice an opinion or keep up with the latest and upcoming hearings? Visit http://www.agriculture.senate.gov/hearings?mode=list to learn more.

The Department of Agricultural Education and Communications Department at Texas Tech University is considered a national leader in the discipline. The department offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in agricultural education, agricultural leadership, and agricultural communications. Faculty members represent a wide range of backgrounds, interests, and are involved in a variety of local, state, regional, national, and international activities and organizations. Visit www.depts.ttu.edu/aged/ for more information about the department.


Cotton has a Copy

Biopolymer & Fiber research Institute employee weighing cotton and visually analyzing the sample.
Biopolymer & Fiber research Institute employee weighing cotton and visually analyzing the sample.

Victim to a fashion industry that prioritized quantity over quality, what was once held in such high esteem is now seen as trivial to most consumers. Imitated, an imposter yet a successor: cotton has a copy.

ack in the late 90s and early 2000s the cotton industry started to feel the impact of synthetic materials. With a declining trend in cotton consumption came a multitude of concerns for not just farmers, but for the consumer as well.
“Balance between man-made fibers verses natural fibers, like cotton, is a very delicate balance,” commented Shawn Wade, director of policy analysis and research for Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Cotton’s Observation

The cotton lint industry has been working tirelessly to change its public perception. It could not wait for research and innovation to take over, updating the natural fiber to modern day society. Tired of public scrutiny on the World Trade Organization’s ruling, cotton used to be king. What this natural fiber was asked to compete with was something that was not even biological. Cotton was anything but meek; cotton had proved tried and true and a reliable staple.

Polyester is a category of polymers that has been defined as long-chain polymers, which is chemically composed of at least 85% by weight of ester and a dihydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid. A few characteristics of polyester would include but is not limited to: an extremely strong and durable fabric, mildew and abrasion resistant, wrinkle resistant and it is quick drying.

In a world trend report over world textile demand, the International Cotton Advisory Committee found that cotton demand in 2010 was 1.7 million tons lower than in 2007. Compared to other traditional fibers, cotton was drastically higher than the other fibers monitored.

“Balance between man-made fibers verses natural fibers, like cotton, is a very delicate balance.”

When comparing cotton and synthetics, there are pros and cons on each side. One is environmentally friendly, but the other is cost effective. With cost playing a huge factor in this equation, China has built a capacity for synthetic fibers. With manmade fibers being highly subsidized, they are prone to overproduce at a high rate. This puts a textile out on the market at a lower price than a comparable, higher quality product.

“The quality and the different parameters of synthetics are much more even running. They are manmade, and so they can be much more perfect. Cotton is a natural fiber. There is nothing perfect about it,” said Steve Verett, vice president of Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Environmental Awareness

Though cotton may not be perfect, there is research to support why it is sustainably a better option.

“Already, they’re finding that the particles that are coming off in the wash from these knitted performance fabrics are all ending up in the wastewater and they’re finding them very harmful to aquaculture,” said Verett. “Those particles never go away. They are there forever, and maybe not forever but they’ve got the half-life of Uranium, whereas cotton is biodegradable.”

Consumer Perceptions

Verett commented that one thing that amazed him was the consumer interest in where their food is being sourced and how it is being treated but they are not necessarily concerned with there they clothes are being made or how it impacts the economy and environment.

“They don’t even think to consider and ask those same questions about the clothes they wear; that they’re more than willing to wear clothes made out of – who knows – gasoline, and somehow see that as being sustainable,” declared Verett as he passionately spoke out of concern for the public.

Wade said the polyester clothing trend is now nearly synonymous with the 60s. Not one garment was breathable, carried
a decent scent by the end of the day, or was practical in terms of outdoor nor body temperature to wear daily. By gaining market share due to polyesters ease of care, there was a market for working women who wanted an outfit that could handle her long workday and still be able to maintain a cosmopolitan societal image. What those women may not have realized was they could have been wearing, instead, something that would have kept them cooler and more comfortable.

Correcting the Pendulum

One reason why polyester is attractive is because it is easy to care for. No wrinkles and you can throw the garment in a bag and go.

“When Cotton Incorporated came along they were able to take that away…[Polyester companies] were able to take a lot of that back because they did a few things. That’s when we first started doing permanent press cotton or you know wrinkle free cotton,” said Verett.

Verett described the challenges synthetic fibers pose to cotton lint as a pendulum.

“I’ve lived long enough to see, it’s like a pendulum,” he said. “Things tend to kind of correct and sometimes they overcorrect and that’s kind of what’s happened with this deal now. It’s kind of overcorrected.”

While the pendulum has been overcorrected, Verett and Wade both agreed the synthetic industry has done a good job of marketing their product.

“They’ve done a heck of a job in marketing with logos and things that 6-and 7-year-old kids are wearing. They don’t need performance fabrics. But that’s the cool thing. That’s what all their sports heroes are wearing. And, so even though it feels bad, and it may not be that great but that’s the deal,” claimed Verett.

Although cotton has a copy, Verett and Wade believe the lint product is headed toward the center of the pendulum.

History might correct itself but that is for the economy to decide. Cotton or synthetics? That is for you to choose. Check out the fiber facts before selecting your next garment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Go to Top