We love farming and creating all-American made, quality sheets, towels and quilts from our cotton.
And while we're passionate about the actual work of farming – the planting and harvesting, we also enjoy the challenge of making RLC run as efficiently and waste-free as possible. It’s like a giant puzzle with lots of pieces that fit together, and where the finished puzzle board is fields of beautiful white cotton. (Can’t you just see it?!)
At Red Land Cotton and Red Land Farms, it’s a focus of ours to use sustainable farming methods… to use fields, buildings, and equipment in multiple ways and in the smartest fashion so they can be used for years and years to come.
With Earth Day this month, it’s perfect timing to share some of these methods. There really is a method to the madness. :)
Field of Dreams...Well Actually, Fields of Cover Crops
“Plant it, and they will come” oversimplifies farming operations like ours in the 21st century. (But, we couldn’t resist the farm humor! Sorry.)
See, it’s a bit more complicated than just putting cottonseed in the ground and then hoping something grows. We use years of our own experimentation and the research of others to make decisions about prepping our fields for the best cotton crop possible.
This may seem strange, but many successful harvests on large farms like RLC actually begin by planting another crop, a "cover crop" to be exact.
In many of our fields, we will grow radishes, ryegrass or clover in the winter months to protect and enrich the soil, provide some good snacks for local wildlife and lay the foundation for the next years cash crops.
If you're a devoted Red Land Blog reader, you may have seen Mark out in the field discussing our radish cover crop that provides worms a habitat to really work the soil. If you haven't seen our most popular "How It's Grown" Video, check it out here:
In the case of ryegrass, we allow it to mature in the fields and we’ll use it to feed our cattle in one of two ways. For some fields, we cut the ryegrass and bale it for hay to save for feeding in the fall and winter months. In other fields, we’ll let our cows graze it now. And, still sometimes, cows will graze, and then we’ll bale what’s left in that field. We waste nothing!
This ryegrass is important not just to our cattle…but to our future cotton crop. See, the remnants of the grass (left from baling or from grazing) decompose, returning important nutrients to the soil. These nutrients then supply the cotton plants as they grow in these fields in the summer months.
Plus, the root systems of the ryegrass help to break up the ground underneath, which means we do not have to till the soil as the cotton grows. Check out this short video of Mark Yeager, our co-founder, and fearless lead farmer, explaining how ryegrass is helpful in cotton fields or watch the video here:
Corn is a Must.
We utilize crop rotations to diversify our soil nutrients. So several fields that hosted cotton last year will be planted in corn this year. This is happening now…and, yes, all before we plant any cotton.
Farmers discovered many years ago that planting the same crop in the same field year after year depleted the soil of nutrients. It would be like going to a piggy bank, and each time, you only take out nickels, leaving the other coins there. After a few trips to the piggy bank, you would have no more nickels because you withdrew the same type of coin repeatedly and without replacing it.
Crop rotation keeps from depleting the soil of the same nutrients time and time again and allows for replenishment. It also prevents diseases from building up in the field. Rotating crops breaks up years of disease cycles and that's a win for everyone.
Planting corn is one our biggest priorities right now (in the month of April).
Once the corn matures in July and early August, it will be harvested and sold primarily to the chicken industry in our home state Alabama!
Sustainability At The Textile Level
Remember, we waste nothing at RLC! We do seconds sales on the second Saturday of every month for our linens and towels that have small defects. These flawed items might typically get thrown out or result in a financial loss for the manufacturer... but we like to embrace the imperfections and offer them at a discount to you. (Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and sign up for our newsletter to stay informed of this and other happenings.)
In addition, all of our tea towels or dish towels are made from seconds "scrap" fabric. Our custom made duvet covers like our Baker Lane Duvet are made from the squares cut out to make our fitted sheets! The ties in the corners of our duvet covers are made from the selvage edge of our fabric.
We work very hard to minimize our waste in our cut and sew facility... this doesn't necessarily mean it makes things cheaper though. All of this work is done by thoughtful hands and not by an automated machine so there is an added cost. We are happy to pay it, however, and have less fabric thrown out and more of it in our homes.
We also work with our manufacturers to minimize the chemicals used in our finishing processes. We believe in accepting more wrinkles and creating linens that are better for our planet and for our people!
Waste Not, Want Not
Y’all, we work very hard to use our resources wisely; we aim to waste nothing.
We pay attention to little details because we know they make big differences. We hope you notice that in RLC product lines.
April 22nd is Earth Day. At Red Land Cotton, we feel very blessed to farm this land...to have a little spot of earth to grow a truly biodegradable and sustainable resource like cotton. We thank our Heavenly Father for this grand opportunity and for the land entrusted to us.
And, we thank you for purchasing our products and believing in our company.