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5 Little Known Facts About…Cotton!

March 8, 2010

As you slip your favorite pair of comfortable jeans on, you probably, like most of us, take them for granted.  Especially if you’re a teenager—you may crumple them to the floor where they will sit until your mom either yells at you to pick them up, or relents and picks them up herself.

Have you ever thought about the cotton that it takes to make those favorite jeans?  Most of us take our cotton jeans, shirts and other unmentionables for granted too.  But did you know that Arizona Farmers produce enough cotton in a year to provide us all in America with one pair of jeans each (for every man, woman and child)?

So, that leads me to wonder what else we take for granted about cotton?  I mean, other than the stereotypical image of white fluffy cotton fields, what do most Americans know about cotton?

In my quest to learn more about cotton, here are five little known facts about cotton that I discovered:

  1. Cotton seeds are tough enough to survive travel across oceans on the wind. This could explain how botanists are not sure where the first plants came from, and probably why similar varieties grow sometimes thousands of miles apart.
  2. Even though cotton is over 5,000 years old, the people who grew and used it never came in contact with each other. Some of them even lived on different sides of an ocean, but astonishingly enough, they still managed to develop similar tools to clean, prepare, spin, and weave it.
  3. Despite its well-earned reputation of casual comfort, the actual word “cotton” is an English version of the Arabic “qutun” or “kutun,” a generic term meaning fancy fabric. One of cotton’s original popular names was “vegetable wool.”
  4. The American South owes its success in the peanut growing industry to cotton—sort of.  The boll weevil created an economic crisis all over the American South by laying its eggs in the cotton bolls, destroying much of the crops in the process. Enterprise, Alabama cotton farmers watched this helplessly until someone suggested they try growing peanuts instead, which is now one of their most successful crop products! In the meantime, a boll weevil eradication program has nearly wiped out the little pest.
  5. Cotton was originally not only grown in white, but assorted other colors including brown, rust and light purple. When mechanical processing methods (think the Industrial Age) were introduced it was easier to maintain color consistency by using only white-fibered plants.

In Eloy, Arizona, The Cotton Shedd, run by Rodney and Tiffany Shedd, is a working farm that produces not only cotton, but wheat, beef and garden produce as well as country living classes, farm experiences, art classes, handmade soaps, art prints, gifts and handmade soaps. They also offer “Creating with Cotton Farm Experiences” in October and November, and Country Living Skills and Art classes throughout the fall, winter and spring.  You can find out more about them by visiting www.fillyourplate.org and searching “cotton” or by visiting their website at  www.cottonshedd.com.

So, the next time you pull on those favorite pair of comfortable jeans, just keep in mind that the cotton makes your jeans comfortable. .  And Arizona farmers worked hard to produce them.

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Arizona Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving and improving the Agriculture industry through member involvement in education, political activities, programs and services.

For more information contact Julie Murphree at   (480) 635-3607 or go to http://www.azfb.org.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 8, 2010 10:58 pm

    Thanks for the great article on cotton and the bit about us.

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