I began breeding naturally colored organic cotton in 1982 while working for a genius of a plant breeder who had a bagful of seeds that the USDA had given to his daughter-in-law. They were supposed to be pest resistant and were from the Cajun people in Louisiana (who had gotten them from former slaves who had grown them in their gardens). The lint was short and coarse and a luscious color of brown. I wanted to work with these gorgeous cottons, but the breeder said that there was no market and that I could make a market for this cotton myself- on my own time. Which is what I began to do. But first I had to get dependable color on fiber that was easier to spin. So I started by handspinning the fiber around each seed and planting (in pots) those that were the easiest to spin and the nicest in color. I cross pollinated the flowers from these with white cottons that had lovely lint and planted those seeds and made selections year after year. Taking these pots with me through a variety of jobs until I finally had too many seeds for pots and needed to rent land.
By 1990 I had developed dependable varieties of naturally colored cottons that could be machine spun and organically grown. My first mill customer was a fine spinning mill in Japan, I then began working with designers in the US and Europe and soon began selling to mills all over the world. The market grew too quickly and within five years it peaked and then painfully collapsed. This coincided with the decline of the US textile industry. The textile industries in the countries that had environmental regulations were decimated by products that came from countries were regulations on textile waste were either nonexistent or not enforced. The mills that I was selling to could not compete and closed.
I was left with my seeds and a lovely organic farm in the Capay Valley and one last mill in Japan to sell my cotton to. And my mail order yarn business (Vreseis Ltd www.vreseis.com) for whom I kept research scale yarn processing active.
This year I have decided to get my breeding program up and running again. I want the work I began with these plants over 30 years ago to survive. The success of growing the cotton for profit has been so minimal this past decade that it has not been sufficient to support the breeding program.
Start up costs have been greater than I expected.
I had to modify my cultivation equipment and repair my tractor. I have had to pay weeding crews more that I expected to. I cannot work any harder than I have been. I need help and I need the money to pay for it.
What We Need & What You Get
Getting my farm equipment up and running again was more costly than I had expected. The weeds worse than I imagined...cost overruns on getting the old John Deere 4010 running again were ~$8000. New gangs of discs on my cultivator required for the bindweed wrapped around the young cotton plants ran an extra $3000, plus mounting. Hand cultivation is taking longer than expected and more than I can do myself. An extra $9000 for that. And so it goes.
I would love to have enough money to put in an small single stand gin, but that will be another fundraising effort.
Any funds raised will help me pay for the gang of discs and the extra hand weeding crews's pay.
The perks are all things that I grow (biodynamically) and process. The wheat is phenomenal- I normally sell it as a whole grain, but will grind it up on my little stone mill (extra fine grind). The socks are a tradition- they have been made out of my cotton since the early 90's entirely in the USA. The yarn is soft, yet does not pill and can be (naturally) dyed if you pick lighter colors. Take a look in the gallery to see pictures of some of the perks.
I need help paying for all these unexpected expenses and think that the things that my farm produces can indeed pay for them. I just need to get the word out. And so here is my first try at that.
Naturally colored organic cotton solves a few environmental problems. First of all cotton bred to be dependent upon chemical inputs is really a sad story- it needs to be the sustainable crop it once was. Secondly textile dyes are a huge component of the textile toxic waste stream. Even if the colors of cotton that I currently have growing are not colorful enough, by starting with naturally colored cottons, one can achieve colors with dyes using far less water and dyestuff than by beginning with white cotton. The naturally colored cottons do yield less than white cottons, for color is expensive for a plant to produce. But it is still less costly than natural dyes or if all the actual environmental costs of dyeing are factored in than chemically derived synthetic dyes.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you cannot help with money, please let others know about this campaign.