Photo sourced from Kurkku
Do enough research on organic fabrics and you’ll likely be amazed by the benefits to make the switch and also alarmed at the villainization of non-organic fabrics. But if organic crops yield such a higher return, with so many more benefits to the end user (AND the farmer) why aren’t more farmers making the switch? So it got us thinking, in all our ethical entitlement, how realistic are we being to the hard working farmers just trying to make a living? So we dug deeper. Here’s the high barriers to entry in switching to organic cotton but who’s building a solution.
I got 99 problems...in switching to organic
3 years. Yes, 3 years. That’s the amount of time a farmer will invest in switching to organic farming methods with no return on investment. After that transition period they can start charging premium pricing for their crop and reaping the benefits but many farmers fear they don’t have the margin to make the leap. But time isn’t the only commitment, to start growing an organic cotton crop you basically are starting from scratch. You have to find new vendors who sell non-GMO seeds, retrain your staff on how to tend to the soil, irrigate, and how to naturally grow your cotton crops without relying on chemicals to fight off pests that destroy it. This often involves switching machinery, and readjusting your operations. Basically, you look like a Cathy comic for a while.
The Solution | Pre-Organic Cotton Program
Started by Japanese companies Kurkku & Itochu in 2008, The Pre-Organic Cotton Program provides all the resources necessary for farmers to transition from traditional to organic cotton farming. Their program works with each recipient for at least 3 years and helps buy their cotton in the transition time before they are fully certified organic. They also work on tracking their supply chain and connecting farmers to the next step in order to further bring that organic product to the consumer.
Mr. Ladesham has three sons and many grandchildren. He joined the Pre Organic Cotton Program in 2008 and has finished the transition to organic cultivation. After joining the Pre Organic Cotton program, he says that 50,000 rupees (approx. 12 months living expenses) is saved every year. The reason is that there is no need to purchase the expensive fertilizer or GMO seed that was used in conventional cultivation. These savings comes from reducing the agricultural chemicals used before (about 11,000 rupees) and the cotton income of about 39,000 rupees.
With an increase in income, Mr. Ladesham could restore his house and attach a roof two years later, and his family was able to secure privacy. He gladly said that he is planning to release the debt and save money to make a well next. Furthermore, Ladesham says that the advantage of pre-organic cotton is not only the increase in revenue. "Pesticides and insecticides greatly damage the field, we will not use pesticides or insecticides anymore."
We hope this little toe dip in the pool of organic farming gives you a better understanding of the realities of switching to an organic textile world as well as an appreciate for the organic products you can buy to support the farmers who have boldly made that move. For more articles like this be sure to subscribe to our weekly emails!