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P.O. Box 155
Brooks, CA, 95606
USA

530 796 3388

Foxfibre® Colorganic® naturally colored organic cotton and merino wool in the form of raw spinners seed cotton, prepared sliver, yarns, fabrics, and some articles of clothing. Bred, grown, designed and produced by Sally Vreseis Fox in the USA.

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Newsletters

Carbon sequestering going on here at Viriditas Farm

Sally Fox

 I was hoping that this year would give me time to catch up a bit. After all, the late rains kept me from planting a proper breeding nursery on my farm. And I was going to use all this time to set up the non profit organization (vs the de-facto one that I operate) that you all sent good names in for me to contemplate. THANK YOU! I kept hoping to be writing an announcement of it's opening. But, well, see, here we are mid December and I am only now sitting down long enough to begin the regular newsletter.  It seems that this was the year for wells on my farm to become inoperable. Either floods shorted power out, or decades of minerals finally clogged the perforations in the agricultural well casing, but water although abundantly abundant last Winter, has remained something that has taken me a great deal of time and money to pump and transport to crops and the sheep pretty much every single day this year. The illusion of "time to get organized" evaporated right along with the cash flow required to pay a lawyer to set the thing up.  Yet, I digress from the real reason that I am sending this out at long last. I am going to toot our own horn about the documented carbon sequestered on this farm that I have been privileged to steward these past 19 years, thanks to the support of all of you.As many of you know, we have a Fibershed organization that I am a founding member of. They have been supporting, among producer members, the quantification of soil carbon sequestering on our farms and ranches. Perhaps you are familiar with the term "organic" farming, but like me really never got why in the heck they decided to call it "organic" versus biological, or non toxic.... So, it turns out that that word organic was chosen because it was about building up the organic matter in the soil. That when the first synthetic fertilizers were invented and applied to farm land impressive yields of harvestable plant materials were gained. But the soils that had these compounds applied to them seemed to suffer from a reduction in organic matter content. The founders of the organic farming movement were extremely concerned with this and advocated that fertilizing materials applied should be derived from biologically active sources, not chemically synthesized ones. They also maintained that plants artificially stimulated by synthetic sources of nitrogen were more prone to insect pest attacks and that plant diseases had an easier time getting established. They promoted a system where soil health remained the most important component of farming. Stewarding and increasing the soil organic matter (SOM) remains the foundational requirement of all of the organic farming standards. On my farm, I have been documenting my efforts to increase the SOM at every single organic inspection that I have had on this farm that I began tending in 1998. Before this farm here in the Capay Valley of California, I was increasing the SOM of the organic farm in Aguila, AZ. And before that I was documenting my efforts to increase the SOM on the first farm that I had the great privilege of owning (thanks in no small part to my siblings lending the money to me to purchase) in Kern County, CA. This foundational work is done by all organic farmers.   We may make our best efforts to increase our SOM, does this mean that we succeed?  Our Fibershed organization paid for a soil scientist to test and analyze our SOM every year to figure out if indeed we are making progress. This year was my first with them. It was meant to establish a baseline. And for all of us participating in this program, we will have our soils tested every year and this will help inform us about the usefulness of our methods. Whether we be organic farmers, or ranchers using some tried and true methods that organic farmers have been perfecting for a few generations already.   I received the first set of results a few months after the testing and it was revealed that the SOM of the soil tested in this particular 40 acre field was 2.6%. Which is not high for soils back east, or even in the midwest, but for our arid western lands, this was a marked increase over the expected ( and what my soil was registered as in the historical data) 1% normal for my soil type. And so what does an increase in organic matter of 1.6% actually mean in terms of carbon sequestered over these 19 years.   Here is the data portion of the results:      ProducerField# of SamplesDepth (cm)Avg. Bulk Density (g/cm3)Avg. Total Carbon (%)Total Carbon Range (% variance)Avg. Inorganic Carbon (%)Total Organic Carbon (%)Avg. SOM (%)Avg. Carbon Content (kg/ac-15cm)    Sally FoxSonora Wheat30-150.9941.680.2380.1561.522.6220232.93  Sally FoxSonora Wheat315-301.390.2160.1801.212.0916122.50  Sally FoxSonora Wheat330-450.830.1370.1970.631.098420.41   For the Sonora Wheat Field, your total carbon per acre, down to a depth of 45cm, is 44,775.84 lbs. In other words, every acre of this particular field has trapped the equivalent amount of carbon contained in 8,353.86 gallons of oil.  Best, Kelsey Brewer     --   Kelsey Brewer  Agroecology Assistant Research Specialist - Gaudin Lab  Department of Plant Sciences - University of California, Davis    So, if my SOM started at 1% and now it is 2.6% perhaps I did not sequester all that carbon. I would need to back out what I started with 19 years ago when I purchased the farm.  Heather Podoll (Fibershed's soil specialist)  approached it this way. We subtracted the carbon originally there in all three profiles and got this : 8420.41 kgs/acre x 3 = 25,261.23 kg/ac  So, if the entire profile is 44,775.84 kg/acre- 25,261.23 kg/acre = 19,514.61 kg/acre of carbon that was sequestered over and above the baseline that I began with. And when I multiplied the number of acres handled the way the field tested was I get 40 acres x 19,514.61 kg/acre = 780,584.4 kg from that one field. In pounds that is: 1,720,894 lbs of carbon.   To put this in perspective Heather brought up the Paris Climate Accord's soil carbon sequestering goal of 4 per mille per year for agricultural soils. As it is not only about reducing the carbon released into the atmosphere, but grabbing that carbon already out there and bringing it back into the soil and getting it out of the atmosphere. When Heather did the math for my farm using this data she got 30 per mille per each of these 19 years.   Now that is something, isn't it? I could almost hear my mother saying :  "imagine!"   Next I added up roughly all of the products produced and sold off of those 40 acres for the 19 years that I have been here trying to breed the cotton, farm and tend the sheep. This is the sort of wild part, as the cotton breeding nursery removes very little from the land, and so most of the cotton that I grow gets incorporated back into the soil. The sheep...well they are wool sheep and primarily it is only their wool that leaves this farm. And my merino's produce a very fine wool and not much of it per animal. And the hay that I grow on these 40 acres is fed to them. The heirloom wheat- Sonora- grows vigorously- producing copious root material in quantities equivalent to what perennial grasses produce, not the annual that it is. And 70% of the root material of crops produced can be sequestered. Sonora...well I have averaged 600 lbs of grain per acre all these years along with copious roots and long stems.  Those stems have been eaten by the sheep and incorporated back into the soil as well.  Email me if you want to see the actual figures, but my estimate in pounds of the total products grown here that have left this farm in the the form of fiber (fleeces, yarns, seed cotton) and grain (heirloom wheat. milo)  these 19 years on these 40 acres that were tested comes to a measly 111,210 lbs . Hay grown here has been fed to the sheep, so it has not left the farm.  Divide the pounds of product that has left the farm with the pounds of carbon sequestered over and above what was in the soil when I came here one gets: 15.5 lbs of carbon sequestered per pound of product that I have sold or am offering for sale.  Now, this 15.5 lbs of carbon per pound of wool, or cotton or flour from my farm is not comparable to other  producers. And this discussion is not really finished with unless I calculate all the carbon that I released pumping water for the sheep to drink, along with the water to irrigate the cotton and alfalfa hay produced over these nearly two decades. But despite all the hype, the cotton only gets watered every two weeks and the Sonora wheat and ryegrass hay is not irrigated at all. The carbon used for those crops is only from the diesel used to power the tractor that did the reduced tillage required- thanks to the sheep eating all the stubble down after each crop. In a future newsletter I will look into those figures. And so clearly what I do on this farm does not resemble anything that a normal cotton, grain or sheep producer does. Even organic ones. Real shepherds produce way more wool, and most produce a lot of meat with their dual purpose breeds such as Rambouillet (this breed produces large fast growing lambs sporting good carcass weights and lovely wool, almost as fine as merino). Real organic row crop farmers produce 5 x's the amount of grain and cotton that I do- at the very least!  And to tell you the truth it normally bums me out and makes me feel, in general, rather embarrassed when I am around these productive people.  I like to comfort myself by imagining my toils to be that of a naturalist scientist self funding her research by selling these (modest in yield only) products from the farm. These fantasies keep me motivated and allows me to sort of hold my head up. Because among farmers and ranchers it is all about how much one produces, and how efficiently one produces it. I see others in their nice big trucks- that can haul trailers of sheep or products to market and sales. While my miserable yields keep me still limping along with my 1991 Toyota pick-up sporting 247,000 miles before the odometer went out. But hey, it has new tires and still gets 20 mpg and passes smog! When I bring sheep anywhere I consider myself very fortunate to be able to rent a truck and trailer from a neighboring organic farm. The financial ramifications of so much R&D on my farm is humbling, to say the least.  But then this data came in.  That is a whole lot of documented carbon sequestered. And I think that it shows that by using heirloom grains and by raising sheep responsibly, SOM can be built up considerably faster than what climate scientists thought was possible to even consider.  I am comforting my bummed wanna-be-farmer ego with these great carbon sequestering figures. I am looking at each skein of wool yarn, each fleece, each bag of Sonora wheat very very differently.  That 2 oz skein of Pioneer Yarn produced by A Verb for Keeping Warm? Just about 2 pounds of carbon - pulled down and out of the atmosphere! That skein of Elderlana wool - 4 pounds of carbon down into the soil! That cone of Sierra Sienna 10/2 yarn- 15.5 pounds of carbon - down deep in the ground! The 2 pound bag of Sonora Heirloom wheat flour that you bought last week-  31 pounds of carbon sequestered! How about savoring that little fact as you eat the shortbread cookies you make from that flour?   For the Climate Beneficial Wool Fashion show we weighed my entry- the Persephone Tunic. When made with my wool and the cotton grown on this farm a whopping 22 pounds of carbon was sequestered! Sierra Reading (pictured below) not only modeled the piece she was also this entries co-creator. As she not only helped me with the sheep that produced the wool but for three generations of cotton helped me weed, tend the plants, pick and then gin this new cotton variety. That we decided to call "Sierra Sienna".   I am thrilled to share these numbers with you on this last day of Fall. I am hoping that they do not give you the brain freeze that so far they seem to have produced among everyone else that I have shared them with.    Thank you all sincerely for appreciating what I grow (ever so humbly by regular farmer and rancher's standards). Thank you for supporting my research by buying my products, and by donating to my efforts. For seeking my wholesale customers out and buying the incredible things that they make from the fruits of this farm and my life's work. Thank you for helping us take all this carbon out of the atmosphere and return it back into our of so precious earth. 

I was hoping that this year would give me time to catch up a bit. After all, the late rains kept me from planting a proper breeding nursery on my farm. And I was going to use all this time to set up the non profit organization (vs the de-facto one that I operate) that you all sent good names in for me to contemplate. THANK YOU! I kept hoping to be writing an announcement of it's opening. But, well, see, here we are mid December and I am only now sitting down long enough to begin the regular newsletter.

It seems that this was the year for wells on my farm to become inoperable. Either floods shorted power out, or decades of minerals finally clogged the perforations in the agricultural well casing, but water although abundantly abundant last Winter, has remained something that has taken me a great deal of time and money to pump and transport to crops and the sheep pretty much every single day this year. The illusion of "time to get organized" evaporated right along with the cash flow required to pay a lawyer to set the thing up.

Yet, I digress from the real reason that I am sending this out at long last. I am going to toot our own horn about the documented carbon sequestered on this farm that I have been privileged to steward these past 19 years, thanks to the support of all of you.As many of you know, we have a Fibershed organization that I am a founding member of. They have been supporting, among producer members, the quantification of soil carbon sequestering on our farms and ranches. Perhaps you are familiar with the term "organic" farming, but like me really never got why in the heck they decided to call it "organic" versus biological, or non toxic.... So, it turns out that that word organic was chosen because it was about building up the organic matter in the soil. That when the first synthetic fertilizers were invented and applied to farm land impressive yields of harvestable plant materials were gained. But the soils that had these compounds applied to them seemed to suffer from a reduction in organic matter content. The founders of the organic farming movement were extremely concerned with this and advocated that fertilizing materials applied should be derived from biologically active sources, not chemically synthesized ones. They also maintained that plants artificially stimulated by synthetic sources of nitrogen were more prone to insect pest attacks and that plant diseases had an easier time getting established. They promoted a system where soil health remained the most important component of farming. Stewarding and increasing the soil organic matter (SOM) remains the foundational requirement of all of the organic farming standards. On my farm, I have been documenting my efforts to increase the SOM at every single organic inspection that I have had on this farm that I began tending in 1998. Before this farm here in the Capay Valley of California, I was increasing the SOM of the organic farm in Aguila, AZ. And before that I was documenting my efforts to increase the SOM on the first farm that I had the great privilege of owning (thanks in no small part to my siblings lending the money to me to purchase) in Kern County, CA. This foundational work is done by all organic farmers. 

We may make our best efforts to increase our SOM, does this mean that we succeed?

Our Fibershed organization paid for a soil scientist to test and analyze our SOM every year to figure out if indeed we are making progress. This year was my first with them. It was meant to establish a baseline. And for all of us participating in this program, we will have our soils tested every year and this will help inform us about the usefulness of our methods. Whether we be organic farmers, or ranchers using some tried and true methods that organic farmers have been perfecting for a few generations already. 

I received the first set of results a few months after the testing and it was revealed that the SOM of the soil tested in this particular 40 acre field was 2.6%. Which is not high for soils back east, or even in the midwest, but for our arid western lands, this was a marked increase over the expected ( and what my soil was registered as in the historical data) 1% normal for my soil type. And so what does an increase in organic matter of 1.6% actually mean in terms of carbon sequestered over these 19 years. 

Here is the data portion of the results: 
  

ProducerField# of SamplesDepth (cm)Avg. Bulk Density (g/cm3)Avg. Total Carbon (%)Total Carbon Range (% variance)Avg. Inorganic Carbon (%)Total Organic Carbon (%)Avg. SOM (%)Avg. Carbon Content (kg/ac-15cm)
 

Sally FoxSonora Wheat30-150.9941.680.2380.1561.522.6220232.93

Sally FoxSonora Wheat315-301.390.2160.1801.212.0916122.50

Sally FoxSonora Wheat330-450.830.1370.1970.631.098420.41


For the Sonora Wheat Field, your total carbon per acre, down to a depth of 45cm, is 44,775.84 lbs. In other words, every acre of this particular field has trapped the equivalent amount of carbon contained in 8,353.86 gallons of oil.

Best,
Kelsey Brewer

 

-- 

Kelsey Brewer

Agroecology Assistant Research Specialist - Gaudin Lab

Department of Plant Sciences - University of California, Davis


So, if my SOM started at 1% and now it is 2.6% perhaps I did not sequester all that carbon. I would need to back out what I started with 19 years ago when I purchased the farm.

Heather Podoll (Fibershed's soil specialist)  approached it this way. We subtracted the carbon originally there in all three profiles and got this : 8420.41 kgs/acre x 3 = 25,261.23 kg/ac  So, if the entire profile is 44,775.84 kg/acre- 25,261.23 kg/acre = 19,514.61 kg/acre of carbon that was sequestered over and above the baseline that I began with. And when I multiplied the number of acres handled the way the field tested was I get 40 acres x 19,514.61 kg/acre = 780,584.4 kg from that one field. In pounds that is: 1,720,894 lbs of carbon. 

To put this in perspective Heather brought up the Paris Climate Accord's soil carbon sequestering goal of 4 per mille per year for agricultural soils. As it is not only about reducing the carbon released into the atmosphere, but grabbing that carbon already out there and bringing it back into the soil and getting it out of the atmosphere. When Heather did the math for my farm using this data she got 30 per mille per each of these 19 years. 

Now that is something, isn't it? I could almost hear my mother saying :  "imagine!" 

Next I added up roughly all of the products produced and sold off of those 40 acres for the 19 years that I have been here trying to breed the cotton, farm and tend the sheep. This is the sort of wild part, as the cotton breeding nursery removes very little from the land, and so most of the cotton that I grow gets incorporated back into the soil. The sheep...well they are wool sheep and primarily it is only their wool that leaves this farm. And my merino's produce a very fine wool and not much of it per animal. And the hay that I grow on these 40 acres is fed to them. The heirloom wheat- Sonora- grows vigorously- producing copious root material in quantities equivalent to what perennial grasses produce, not the annual that it is. And 70% of the root material of crops produced can be sequestered. Sonora...well I have averaged 600 lbs of grain per acre all these years along with copious roots and long stems.  Those stems have been eaten by the sheep and incorporated back into the soil as well.

Email me if you want to see the actual figures, but my estimate in pounds of the total products grown here that have left this farm in the the form of fiber (fleeces, yarns, seed cotton) and grain (heirloom wheat. milo)  these 19 years on these 40 acres that were tested comes to a measly 111,210 lbs . Hay grown here has been fed to the sheep, so it has not left the farm.

Divide the pounds of product that has left the farm with the pounds of carbon sequestered over and above what was in the soil when I came here one gets: 15.5 lbs of carbon sequestered per pound of product that I have sold or am offering for sale.

Now, this 15.5 lbs of carbon per pound of wool, or cotton or flour from my farm is not comparable to other  producers. And this discussion is not really finished with unless I calculate all the carbon that I released pumping water for the sheep to drink, along with the water to irrigate the cotton and alfalfa hay produced over these nearly two decades. But despite all the hype, the cotton only gets watered every two weeks and the Sonora wheat and ryegrass hay is not irrigated at all. The carbon used for those crops is only from the diesel used to power the tractor that did the reduced tillage required- thanks to the sheep eating all the stubble down after each crop. In a future newsletter I will look into those figures. And so clearly what I do on this farm does not resemble anything that a normal cotton, grain or sheep producer does. Even organic ones. Real shepherds produce way more wool, and most produce a lot of meat with their dual purpose breeds such as Rambouillet (this breed produces large fast growing lambs sporting good carcass weights and lovely wool, almost as fine as merino). Real organic row crop farmers produce 5 x's the amount of grain and cotton that I do- at the very least!  And to tell you the truth it normally bums me out and makes me feel, in general, rather embarrassed when I am around these productive people.

I like to comfort myself by imagining my toils to be that of a naturalist scientist self funding her research by selling these (modest in yield only) products from the farm. These fantasies keep me motivated and allows me to sort of hold my head up. Because among farmers and ranchers it is all about how much one produces, and how efficiently one produces it. I see others in their nice big trucks- that can haul trailers of sheep or products to market and sales. While my miserable yields keep me still limping along with my 1991 Toyota pick-up sporting 247,000 miles before the odometer went out. But hey, it has new tires and still gets 20 mpg and passes smog! When I bring sheep anywhere I consider myself very fortunate to be able to rent a truck and trailer from a neighboring organic farm. The financial ramifications of so much R&D on my farm is humbling, to say the least.

But then this data came in.  That is a whole lot of documented carbon sequestered. And I think that it shows that by using heirloom grains and by raising sheep responsibly, SOM can be built up considerably faster than what climate scientists thought was possible to even consider.

I am comforting my bummed wanna-be-farmer ego with these great carbon sequestering figures. I am looking at each skein of wool yarn, each fleece, each bag of Sonora wheat very very differently.  That 2 oz skein of Pioneer Yarn produced by A Verb for Keeping Warm? Just about 2 pounds of carbon - pulled down and out of the atmosphere! That skein of Elderlana wool - 4 pounds of carbon down into the soil! That cone of Sierra Sienna 10/2 yarn- 15.5 pounds of carbon - down deep in the ground! The 2 pound bag of Sonora Heirloom wheat flour that you bought last week-  31 pounds of carbon sequestered! How about savoring that little fact as you eat the shortbread cookies you make from that flour? 

For the Climate Beneficial Wool Fashion show we weighed my entry- the Persephone Tunic. When made with my wool and the cotton grown on this farm a whopping 22 pounds of carbon was sequestered! Sierra Reading (pictured below) not only modeled the piece she was also this entries co-creator. As she not only helped me with the sheep that produced the wool but for three generations of cotton helped me weed, tend the plants, pick and then gin this new cotton variety. That we decided to call "Sierra Sienna". 

I am thrilled to share these numbers with you on this last day of Fall. I am hoping that they do not give you the brain freeze that so far they seem to have produced among everyone else that I have shared them with.  

Thank you all sincerely for appreciating what I grow (ever so humbly by regular farmer and rancher's standards). Thank you for supporting my research by buying my products, and by donating to my efforts. For seeking my wholesale customers out and buying the incredible things that they make from the fruits of this farm and my life's work. Thank you for helping us take all this carbon out of the atmosphere and return it back into our of so precious earth. 

March 2016

Sally Fox

Greetings Customers and Supporters,

The pollution that can be caused by synthetic textile dyes is significant and preventable. So many of us who work with fibers are all too familiar with the problems, and we often wonder why there is not a larger commercial focus on solving this global menace. Even when they are responsibly disposed of, these chemicals must be put into  toxic waste dumps. And to dye cotton a good amount of water and power are required. Color is quite an expensive component of textile production.  Can we use less dye, water and power to achieve color in our textiles? My 35 year old breeding program aimed at commercializing organic colorful cottons to reduce dye use remains ready to be a part of the solution. I initiated this work because of a personal conviction that colors produced by the plant (or animal for that matter) were gorgeous and that these inherent colors would be appreciated and should be used whenever possible. That these cottons were naturally pest and disease resistant allowed me to breed and grow them organically and they indeed were the vehicle towards the larger organic cotton industry's genesis that took root in the early 1990's. The project grew into what my friends named and I trademarked: Foxfibre® Colorganic®. Along the way we discovered that one can use these cottons as a pre-mordanted base to achieve deep color penetration of dyes- both natural and synthetic. Reducing the amount of dye required to as little as 20% as for that needed to color white cotton. We also found that brown cottons have inherent fire resistance. Despite these technological breakthroughs, the original goal remains very far from being realized. This cotton has yet to hold it's place in commerce alongside other environmentally important developments in our work towards clothing ourselves with materials that honor our love of this earth.

The technical hurdles of transforming (utilizing classical plant breeding) the garden types of cottons grown for their beauty and medicinal values so that they are appropriate for mechanized organic farming, machine picking, industrial spinning, processing and laundering have been pretty much been accomplished. I funded this work by using all of my salary (from my paycheck as a working scientist not taken up by the cost of living in an inexpensive small town) that first decade. Then by utilizing the proceeds of the sale of the larger scale cotton produced in the second and third decade of the work. In the beginning the primary customers were hand spinners and then once yarns were made available from my testing at research mills, hand weavers became the core customers. By the late '80's a commercial mill from Japan bought the first bale I was able to produce and from there the business to the textile mills in the parts of the world where dye wastes were cleaned up grew rapidly. There were numerous, wonderful products that sold exceedingly well in the US - the Levi's Natural's Line, the LLBean Sweater, the Naturals line of sheets and towels manufactured and sold by Fieldcrest Cannon among others. I used the money generated from the sale of the cotton to pay for more extensive and expensive research and development of this ecologically critical product. For a few decades I had a really well funded absolutely fascinating diverse and amazing breeding and textile processing research program. From which great advances were made. Including significant improvements such as strong green and longer higher yielding browns and red ochre colors that were wash fast. All despite a sustained and profound attack from the conventional cotton industry requiring that I relocate farms and states a heartbreaking (not to mention bank breaking) two times.  Despite this, in the ’90’s the people working with me and the farmer’s growing these cottons for spinning mills were responsible for over 4000 acres of organic cotton production. We got the organic cotton industry going in the United States, which inspired others to try it all over the world. If it were not for the collapse of the textile industry in the places where dye waste clean up was mandated we would have kept growing and a major source of pollution in the world would have been reduced significantly. Because even though the yield of these colorful cottons are less than white cotton's (yes, it is expensive for the plant to produce color), the cost of dyeing and dye waste clean up are even higher. We were poised to transform textiles in a fundamental way. But quite tragically and rapidly we lost our textile industry in the US, Europe and Japan to the mills in the parts of the world where dye wastes were not cleaned up. What cost responsible mills between $2 and $3 per dyed pound of yarn or fabrics to clean up, these new mills simply dumped in their rivers. Punishing and poisoning the people, crops and living systems downstream. In the US we have only recently produced as much organic cotton as we did in 1995. And the naturally colorful component remains almost nil. This happened because the retailers dumped the good mills that had been supplying them with products, wonderful R&D and loyalty.  The US went from the number one textile manufacturer in the world to almost vanishing within a mere 10 years. And despite the sort of conventional wisdom at the time "that the manufacturers left the US to go to cheaper places offshore", what really happened was that the manufacturers lost their customers, and workers lost their good jobs, and iconic businesses closed. It was the retailers and big brand names who stopped buying from them because they could go offshore and get their products made for so much less money. And so, I lost the business of almost every single mill that had been buying this cotton, mills that were on the brink of incorporating through sound business principles a real and sustainable path towards cleaning up a major toxic textile waste product. All the while supporting organic farming of a rather large commodity crop. It was a devastatingly sad experience.

I have been funding my breeding program in such a modest  way this past decade (as compared to those days of a salary or good mill sales), but despite that it is alive and there is progress, albeit at a slower pace. It has been funded by the sales of products from my own farm many of which can be seen on my website : www.vreseis.com. and from financial gifts from caring individuals who have kept me and the research going by their generosity.

I believe that my life’s work is to get this cotton into commerce to reduce the pollution both on the farm and at the mill. I have been considering setting up a research institute in the hopes of getting financial support from foundations or the USDA (which is beginning to fund organic breeding programs- but so far only those associated with a University- but one can hope) for quite some time now and am making slow progress in that area. It is positively ridiculous that a project as important as this has been left behind as it has, being kept afloat only by me and the small group of individuals (who I thank sincerely) who are helping in any way that they can. To pull this off- commercializing this cotton, heavy work has been required breeding wise. And this work must be and has been informed by working with designers to create pull through. Research in and knowledge of textile processing from spinning mills though knitting, weaving, fabric finishing, cut and sew, retailing, and washing and light fastness under various conditions are all required of each potential variety. All of these tests require time and money.

So, how to proceed? I am generally so busy just doing the work of all this from the farming to filling the orders, that the way out of this often (setting up a Research Institute)  eludes me. And I keep thinking that some commercial project will catch on for one of my customers and that bales will get ordered and the commercial production will just fund the research again. But this has yet to occur. And really the research that I do ends up benefiting everybody who chooses to getting into this industry. For this reason the "Research Institute/Eco-Textile Incubator" idea resonates more and more.

This year thanks to the retail sales on my website I was able to pay for some excellent part time help on my farm, which  made such a fundamental difference to my mood. Having the help of two intelligent, talented younger people even just a few hours a week (thank you Sierra Reading and Maggie Smith) has made a huge difference. And thanks to a grant from the USDA NRCS and a generous gift from dear friends an irrigation system more efficient than drip -a center pivot that cannot blow into the highway - has been set up on my farm. 


But long term I remain hopeful that somehow a more secure way of funding this research will materialize. And so, should you have any ideas to share, please e-mail them to me. Should you know of foundations that would lend a helping hand or real grant opportunities, please let me know.

In the meantime, when you buy socks, cotton bolls, yarn or fabric from me, this is what you are in fact supporting. The research that I have kept going three and a half decades now founded on the belief that intrinsic color should be a foundation of our textiles, not just for those dedicated enough to seek it out. Thank you for believing in this cotton, and thank you for helping me stay the course with my work on it's behalf.

With gratitude,
Sally Vreseis Fox