Weaving Hemp into the Northern California Fibershed

Encouraged by the Federal legalization of hemp in 2018, Fibershed has continued research into the versatile crop this year, deepening understanding of the plant and the fiber, prototyping hemp textile production in Northern California, supporting agroecological trials, and charting a path forward for weaving hemp into the region.

Terra Firma: Fibershed

Fibersheds put it all together into a practical, natural, and hopeful whole. It’s based in the philosophy that nature still knows best, whether it involves the role of animals on the land, promoting life in the soil, keeping the ground covered with plants, building up soil carbon, generating local jobs, and using ingredients sourced from nature.

California Cotton Fields: Can Cotton be Climate Beneficial?

Looking across the landscape, we see at least six key approaches to increasing soil carbon and so much more: integrating animals, rotating crops, building biodiversity with plantings like hedgerows, conserving soil with cover cropping, boosting soil fertility with fungal-dominated compost, and eventually finding methods for no-till cotton that do not depend on synthetic chemistry.

California Cotton Fields: Building Biodiversity with John Teixeira

The Sustainable Cotton Project began in 1996 and has concentrated on creating a high-quality cotton fiber in the US that’s free of the most toxic pesticides and herbicides. Though not certified organic, it’s eliminated the most dangerous chemicals, and helped farmers connect with manufacturers under the Cleaner Cotton™ branding.

Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy: Excerpt

I call this place-based textile system a fibershed. Similar to a local watershed or a foodshed, a fibershed is focused on the source of the raw material, the transparency with which it is converted into clothing, and the connectivity among all parts, from soil to skin and back to soil.

California Cotton Fields: Sally Fox Reinvented Cotton — by Going Back to its Roots

In 1989, she brought naturally colored cotton back to the market. The iconic image of a white cotton ball had become pervasive. Yet Sally Fox had been looking at ancient, pest-resistant (by nature) varieties that came in shades of the Earth like greens and browns.

Fine Fleece at Stone Steps Farm

The small goats and sheep are very easy on the land. Stone Steps Farm is participating in Fibershed’s soil sampling protocol, and the family hopes to implement grazing practices that sequester carbon and increase soil organic matter. They also aim to decrease wildfire risk by using their goats to clear brush that provides a fuel ladder, and by using their sheep to keep grasses down during fire season.

California Cotton Fields: Scaling Carbon Farming Practices with Bowles Farming Company

Farmers are interested in how they can be a part of this carbon economy, Michael says. “But it’s a risky thing to experiment with given all the other pressures they have to deal with. So we need to flesh out in greater detail how carbon sequestration would work, and what would be the incentives to do so. We’re getting closer.”

California Cotton Fields: Nathanael Siemens on a 10 Acre Model Toward Regeneration

Nathanael Siemens wants to bring regenerative and organic cotton to the San Joaquin Valley. He spends his mornings just walking the fields, trying to figure out what to do next, how to overcome the challenges that he faces daily from weed control to irrigation to simply getting a hold of enough seeds.

California Cotton Fields: a Renewed Opportunity for Rebuilding Soil

There is ample evidence that some level of cotton production could fit into an ecologically sensitive farming system, yet the future of this crop in our climate relies on re-building organic matter, carbon levels, and dynamic microbial communities in the soil where the cotton is grown.