For many food crops, the journey from farm to fork is rather straightforward. Take, for example, an apple. It is selected, cleaned, and graded to determine where it will end up. If it’s destined for the supermarket, it’s labelled and placed on a pallet with other apples before being loaded onto a supply truck. The technique is slightly more complicated for imported or exported foods, but it is similar.
Take a cotton dress now. It was grown in a field before it wound up on a store hanger. But how did it arrive at the store? Like our apple, the cotton was picked and washed by the farmer first. It was also graded to see if it could be used.
While people are paying increasing attention to regenerative agriculture as it relates to our food supply, there hasn’t been much debate about fibre crops, which account for a large portion of arable land in the United States, particularly cotton. The United States is the world’s top cotton exporter. During the 2019-2020 season, the United States produced over 20 million bales of cotton worth approximately $7 billion.
There are around 18,600 cotton farms in the United States, with the majority of them concentrated in southern states such as Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi. While cotton is the most common fibre crop farmed in the United States, hemp and flax farms are on the rise, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest.