Field to Fashion in Acadiana
We had the pleasure of meeting Sharon Donnan of Acadian Brown Cotton over lunch a few weeks ago. She shared the details of the project with us - we’re pasting below the text of a story she’s written about the genesis and progress of her endeavor.
ACADIAN BROWN COTTON
In 2016 the Textile Society of America requested a screening of my documentary film, “Coton jaune - Acadian Brown Cotton - A Cajun Love Story” at the 15th Biennial Symposium in Savannah later that year. It was there I discovered that textile production is the second largest pollutant of the planet and that a global Fashion Revolution is working to educate and change unhealthy practices.
I became convinced that Acadiana would benefit from participating in this worldwide effort. When I returned to Lafayette I immediately brought the idea to a diverse group of people. The format World Cafe - Conversations that Matter allowed us to determine feasibility and our first steps. Save the heirloom seed was the unanimous cry and save it we did! The newly opened Seed Bank Facility at ULL Cade Farm began banking ABC seed in 2017 with seeds provided by Elaine Bourque, seed steward, Acadian spinner and weaver, geneaologist, Tradition Bearer Awardee, 2019 and ABC team member.
In the fall of 2018 we held our first annual Graboterie in Lafayette at the Acadiana Food Hub Warehouse and Incubator Kitchen. Grabot is French for the boll of cotton freshly picked from the field and brought to the Graboterie for communal processing. Traditionally the bolls were hand ginned and smooth seeds saved for next year’s planting. Food, music and conversation were abundant in times past. Our potluck celebration included farmers with their harvested cotton, interested supportive folks and potential ABC farmers. Our small table gin, donated by team member Deb Waldman, ran nonstop for five hours, which wasn’t enough time to gin all the cotton. Adults and children enjoyed hand ginning, eating and good company. Approximately 50 people participated including the curator of the Hilliard University Art Museum exhibit, Ben Hickey and his family.
Organic, sustainable farming in Southwest Louisiana is currently experiencing an upsurge as Farm to Table restaurants and the community increasingly request local produce. The Acadiana Food Hub headed by Zack McMath joined our team and increased the number of farmers responsibly growing ABC. We are a Fibershed Affiliate now and successfully harvested, ginned and sold our first small crop in 2018.
We have twice as many farmers this year and orders are already coming in. We look to completing the mission of Field to Fashion; process, design and manufacture Acadian Brown Cotton within the French speaking parishes of Louisiana where it all began so very long ago.