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"All my cotton is contracted before I put a seed in the ground. I’ll always know where I’m growing Eileen’s cotton." -Dosi Alvarez
The cotton comes from New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley, where Dosi Alvarez is transitioning 178 acres from conventional to organic farming. It’s a three-year, pesticide-free process that not a lot of farmers are willing to undertake. The costs are higher, the profits lower.
Brands shy away from designing with cotton they can’t market as organic. But when we heard about Dosi’s transitional cotton, we picked up the phone. After long conversations and extensive tours, we asked him to be our designated supplier of extra-long staple cotton.
“Dosi’s understanding of cotton farming goes back three generations,” explains Megan Meiklejohn, our transparency manager. “He has exceptional expertise and a passion for understanding the land.”
Initially, when Dosi took over his dad’s farm, he thought farming with chemicals was the efficient, scientific way to go. He didn’t worry about the effects of pesticides on his health. “You’d spray all day and fix a broken nozzle with your bare hands,” he recalls. “You didn’t have time to stop for a shower.”
In 1992 his son was born. As Dosi tells it, “I was sitting in the barn with all these insecticides and herbicides. I thought, this is not going to be good. I didn’t want him breathing what I was spraying.” He decided to go organic, converting 20 acres and then 20 more. “I learned from my dad. He knew a few tricks from the days before herbicides and the older workers were experienced hands—they helped me out.”
Now, when his friends ask what herbicide he uses, Dosi tells them azada—Spanish for hoe. “I have two crews of thirty run the fields after I go over it with the big cultivator,” he says. “Because I plant cover crops, I have a lot of beneficial bugs—ladybugs, lacewings and pirate bugs—so pests like the boll weevil aren’t a problem. But weeds are. We get most of them.”
Over the years, Dosi has rented or bought small parcels of land like the 178 acres where his latest transitional cotton is grown. He now farms 1,000-plus acres that he surveys daily, always checking on what he calls “Eileen’s cotton.”
In Fall, “Eileen’s cotton” will have a new organic certification—and we’ll once again be able to call our signature fabric Organic Cotton Stretch Jersey.