Medical scrubs are a win for farmers, our planet and more

Bayer US - June 10th, 2021

By Kelli Brown, U.S. Cotton Portfolio Manager*, Crop Science, Bayer U.S.

Medical scrubs on display

 

Have you ever been involved on a project or worked with a colleague so passionate about what they do that you find yourself jumping at the opportunity to play a small part in their lifelong mission? That has been my experience working on a recent cotton project with Keylon Gholston, Bayer Deltapine® cotton Product Manager, an industry veteran for more than 30 years.

 

Standing in cotton field

 

Success in my job as U.S. Cotton Portfolio Manager for Bayer can be summed up as finding ways to help cotton farmers succeed, since Bayer provides seed, technology, and other products to cotton producers.

 

For the past several years, this has included supporting a project to help reward Deltapine® cotton farmers for their investment in high quality cotton seeds and sustainable farming practices. The culmination of this project has been the development of 100 percent Deltapine cotton scrubs with an antimicrobial fabric treatment, grown and crafted entirely in the United States.

 

What’s even more exciting is that our partners in the project celebrated this achievement by providing medical scrubs free of charge to Georgia-area hospitals, demonstrating how multiple industries can come together to share in wins for many.

 

From the field to the hospital

Driven by a common passion for cotton, Bayer’s Keylon Gholston and Jernigan Global founder Ed Jernigan began having conversations over a decade ago about the rise of man-made fibers in textiles and the impact it was having on not only the cotton farmer, but the entire global textile industry. In 2019, Bayer and Jernigan Global formed a partnership around Jernigan Global’s Field to Closet™ trademark with the goal of encouraging retailers to use high-quality U.S. cotton instead of cheaper manmade fibers, such as polyester.

 

A farmer standing in his field

 

In the first project of this Field to Closet initiative, cotton grown from Deltapine® cotton seed was produced into medical scrubs that are being donated to doctors, nurses and staff in 15 rural Georgia hospitals.

 

The scrubs are made from 100 percent Deltapine cotton. The material is treated with the first-ever use of PROTX2® AV on 100 percent cotton fabric, which is an antimicrobial technology that inhibits the growth of bacteria and has been shown in lab tests to destroy viruses.

 

Cotton field

 

A win for farmers

In addition to providing a much needed domestic supply chain for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supporting frontline healthcare workers, the Field to Closet project has had many other wins.

 

Because of the investment by Bayer in cotton breeding, Deltapine cotton seeds have become known for producing high quality lint, and Deltapine Select™ varieties can be made into higher thread counts, leading to a look and feel similar to that of well-known Pima and Egyptian cotton. Under the leadership of experienced cotton industry leaders such as Keylon, our goal is to help farmers who choose to plant these varieties receive a premium price for this investment in quality, as well as being rewarded for their efforts to produce cotton in a sustainable manner.

 

To execute on this goal, part of the Field to Closet initiative is a Farmer GiveBack program based on the wholesale price of the final garment. Retailers and brands have expressed excitement about the Farmer Giveback, as they recognize that consumers value having their purchases aligned with causes important to them, such as sustainability and were excited to support farmers in this program.

 

A win for our planet

Speaking of sustainability, U.S. grown cotton has made tremendous sustainability strides in the past 30 years, many of which are tied to technology and breeding advancements that Bayer has brought to market. U.S. cotton is among the most sustainable cotton in the world, and the cotton industry has established programs to measure its progress on sustainability.

 

In addition to being responsibly produced, it is important to note that the natural fibers of cotton have been shown to be more environmentally friendly than manmade fibers in several key ways. For example, cotton fibers are biodegradable in soil, salt water, and fresh water. (No microplastics here!) This represents a significant difference from man-made, petroleum-based fibers such as polyester and rayon, which are found in many garments, and which degrade at a significantly slower pace than cotton and can leave microfibers behind in aquatic environments.

 

Making medical scrubs

 

A win for U.S. supply chain workers

Importantly, the medical scrubs initiative highlights what’s possible within the cotton supply chain. The project’s partnerships create a completely U.S. supply chain, including parts of the process typically completed overseas, such as spinning, weaving/knitting, and final garment production.

 

Field to Closet worked with America Knits in Swainsboro, Georgia, to source Deltapine seed cotton grown in Georgia, which was spun into yarn at Parkdale Mills in Rabun Gap, Georgia, and woven into fabric in North Carolina at Hornwood Inc., before arriving at America Knits for the final production of the scrubs.

 

The project is endorsed by Georgia Grown® and Georgia Made®. Cotton is very important to Georgia’s economy, and the state is interested in rebuilding its manufacturing infrastructure as part of its economic development initiatives.

 

Creating benefits for consumers and our world

According to CCI & CI Global Environment research, 75 percent of U.S. consumers are concerned about the environment, with 64 percent becoming more concerned since the start of the pandemic. If clothing is not sustainable, consumers place the majority of the blame on the clothing brand or retailer, according to a CI 2020 Sustainability and E-commerce survey. By partnering with Jernigan Global to bring the Field to Closet initiative to life, we have created an actionable way for brands and retailers to provide consumers the sustainable clothing they demand — with the added benefit of supporting hard-working American farmers in a positive way, as well as helping to ensure work for a clothing sector that’s been hit hard by the pandemic.

 

This project is a stunning example of what can be achieved with collaboration, cooperation, and a dash of the American spirit. Multi-generational farmers, small businesses, and corporations all came together to innovate and support one another and to create meaningful benefits for consumers and our world.

 

Click here to watch a video about the Field to Closet medical scrubs project.

 

Deltapine® is a registered trademark of Bayer Group. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2021 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.

 

* Since writing this blog, Kelli has taken on a new role at Bayer, joining The Climate Corporation as a Regional Activation Lead.