Seed to Shirt: Georgia National Fair showcases an agricultural industry in high cotton!

A new exhibit at the Georgia National Fair is highlighting the value addition of cultivating cotton. This comes as industry leaders work to revitalize the state’s textile industry and build a complete supply chain within the state.

There is excitement in the air across the Peach State, as the annual Georgia National Fair draws near. This year, fairgoers will have the opportunity to explore a brand-new exhibit designed to celebrate and showcase Georgia’s cotton industry.

Cotton has long been a cornerstone of Georgia’s agricultural industry, and this exhibit aims to magnify its significance by highlighting the value of cotton grown across the state. The hope is that this showcase will not only educate but also benefit the hardworking farmers who cultivate this vital crop. This immersive experience—located inside the Georgia Grown Building—takes visitors along on the unique journey of growing cotton, tracing its path from planting through its transformation into a finished fabric.

“One of the great things about Georgia agriculture—it’s the number one industry in the state—but it could be, by far and away, the number one industry if we could conceive of and develop ways to add value to Georgia agricultural products and retain more profit in the hands of those who produce it,” explained David Bridges, Director of Georgia’s Rural Center and Director of the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development at the University of Georgia. “We could have an even far greater impact in terms of employment, economic activity and whatever. So, Cotton’s a great example, a great example. We grow one of the best cottons in the world. We’re very good at it. But we have no capacity within the state to use that cotton.”

Georgia’s cotton is renowned for its quality, but until recently, producers were required to send it out of state for processing and production. However, the state’s cotton landscape is beginning to evolve, thanks to rural entrepreneurs like Zeke Chapman, the owner of Magnolia Loom. Chapman’s innovative company is committed to creating shirts made entirely from 100% Georgia-grown cotton, as well as keeping the entire process from “seed to shirt” within state borders.

“This exhibit is an experiential embodiment of what has happened in the last few years,” Bridges praised. “We have a young entrepreneur from rural Georgia who has taken it upon themselves to buy cotton from Georgia farmers and produce garments right here in the state, adding value to Georgia cotton in a way that helps the farmer and a small upstart business created by a young entrepreneur from rural Georgia.”

As a member of the state’s vibrant cotton industry, Chapman hopes that this exhibit will be a catalyst for the ongoing rejuvenation of Georgia’s textile industry. While challenges persist, such as rebuilding the supply chain within the state, his dedication is unwavering.

“Doing what we do isn’t easy,” Chapman said. “Finding the supply chain that we have has been really tough. Our goal is to see that come back. Right now, our cotton is grown in Georgia, and our sewing is done in Georgia. Our goal is to continue moving parts of that supply chain back to the state of Georgia.”

Beyond the economic impact, the exhibit’s main goal is to connect fairgoers to the world of agriculture. Georgia Agriculture Commissioner, Tyler Harper believes that understanding cotton’s journey from seed to shirt is vital.

“I think it’s important for individuals, especially those coming to the fair, to know what agriculture is about, where their food comes from, where their fiber comes from, where their shelter comes from,” Harper said. “This is an awesome opportunity for us to tell that story, the seed-to-shirt story of how cotton starts and ends up in processing to the shirt that you have on your back.”

As the Georgia National Fair approaches, the “Seed to Shirt” exhibit promises to be a captivating experience that not only celebrates Georgia’s rich cotton heritage but also illustrates the potential for growth within the state’s agriculture and textile industries. It’s a story that starts with a simple seed and ends with a shirt on your back, showcasing the true essence of Georgia’s cotton journey.

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