GREENSBORO — During the cotton season in October, Donny Lassiter typically gets up at 6 a.m. to service the harvesting machines before heading out into the fields. If the day remains dry and there is a breeze to keep the evening's condensation from forming on the tufts of white cotton, Lassiter might harvest until 10 p.m.
This is the life of a third-generation farmer, one who has a special relationship with Greensboro-based Wrangler. Lassiter's 9,000-acre farm in Conway grew the cotton Wrangler put into it's Rooted Collection North Carolina Jean.
The Rooted Collection is a special series of jeans created to commemorate the brand's ties to sustainable growers in five states: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and, of course, North Carolina.
Each state has its own pair of jeans — at a throat-swallowing cost of $99 — made from cotton grown there.
“This is the first time we intentionally partnered with growers to tell this unique story,” said Roian Atwood, Wrangler's director of sustainability. “To have a connection with growers in a nameless, faceless supply chain is pretty neat."
The collection is a tangible symbol of Wrangler’s new commitment to source cotton grown in a sustainable way, meaning farm practices that have less impact on the environment.
The Rooted Collection is just the start. By 2025, Wrangler aims to source 100 percent of its cotton from farms using environmentally-friendly practices.
“We chose Donny ... specifically because he was an exemplary land-steward farmer,” Atwood explained.
For example, Lassiter plants cover crops. Considered the most beneficial farm practice, cover crops are planted out of season when harvested crops aren't in the ground. Their purpose is to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. The stored carbon helps offset greenhouse gas emissions. Cover crops also help reduce weeds without the use of herbicides.
Wrangler works with local partners, like the North Carolina Cotton Growers Association, to push for the use of cover crops.
“North Carolina is leading in cover-crop development,” Atwood said.
Another example of being a land steward: Lassiter’s crops grow from rainfall. He doesn't use irrigation.
But being at the mercy of the weather is good and bad.
"The rain works both ways," he said. "It can be too dry and it can get too wet at the wrong time."
About 1.5 to 3 pounds of Lassiter’s cotton was part of each pair of the North Carolina jeans. The denim was manufactured in Texas, but the jean's design was conceived at Wrangler’s 500-employee development facility on South Elm-Eugene Street.
The North Carolina jeans feature unique embellishments. An image of the state emblazons the front button and leather label on the back. Also, each pair comes with a print on the inside pocket that reads "Grown by Lassiter Family Farm."
"Rarely do you know whose cotton is in a pair of jeans," Lassiter said. "To know that it's ours is a just a great feeling."
For information on the Wrangler's Rooted Collection, visit www.wrangler.com.