My journey started in Izmir. While most of us will associate Izmir with beach holidays, the region is also famous for its textile industry. Turkey is one of the worldwide largest producers of organic cotton, together with India and China. Syria as well, before its crisis started.
The cotton used for our first piece of fabric was grown near Izmir – maybe exactly on the fields in the pics – a year earlier. This region offers optimal conditions for cotton: a lot of sun and a lot of water.
Aylan, whom I identified as the farmer’s son, kindly let me shoot pictures. Unfortunately, the language barrier reduced our communication to little more than smiles.
After the harvest, the cotton seeds are removed in the ginning process. During my visit, the cotton hadn’t been picked yet, thus the ginning factories were closed . Ginning is a winter activity.
Organic cotton is hand-picked.
On conventional farms, to lower the effort and cost, farmers sprinkle some highly toxic defoliant over the fields to force the cotton to ripen rapidly and blossom all at the same time, before the whole plant dies. Then, they pick the cotton all at once with huge machines.
On organic fields, cotton is grown without harmful chemicals. The plants are left intact allowing for natural ripening. In nature, cotton doesn’t ripen all at once. The ripe seeds are selectively and carefully picked by hand, resulting in higher fibre quality.
Organic cotton uses up to 90% less water than conventional one.
Conventional agriculture often heavily damage the soils, fostering erosion and leaching. The remaining soil cannot store water very well anymore and needs a lot of irrigation. Damaged soils is one of the challenges for farmers who want to convert to organic farming. But the conversion is worth the effort, because organic farming allows for the soil to regenerate and get healthy and alive again.