Proceeding from UN strategy the next 10 years were declared as the period for small farmers development. Major goals are reducing poverty and improving global food security. Small family farming, besides of poverty and food control, can also be a key to reaching some global goals: gender equality, good health and well-being, sustainable community growth, […]
In the movement towards a regenerative and equitable agriculture system, there has been one notable blind spot–the fiber and textile sector. Natural fiber/textile crops like cotton, hemp, wool, and leather have steadily lost ground to petroleum-based synthetics, while farmers struggle to profit from these crops. Meanwhile, sustainable textiles are emerging as the next wave of consumer awareness, offering pathways for economic revitalization for rural and Tribal areas and communities of color.
Philanthropic funders and values-based investors currently have a key opportunity to help catalyze reform and create new opportunities in this vastly under-recognized sector. In recent conversations, our project teams’s funder and investor colleagues emphasized needs for data and case studies to mobilize investment in U.S. fiber production and processing infrastructure. In 2019 SAFSF launched its Special Project on Sustainable Fibers and Textiles to meet these needs. Since then, the Covid-19 crisis has only increased awareness of the importance of resilient U.S. supply chains.
In this workshop, you’ll see the results of the yearlong process to develop the “Fibers Roadmap.” The Roadmap team will share its visual timeline of types of funds needed and when/where over the next 5-7 years, market opportunities, and key levers identified, using an integrated capital approach.
After the presentation of the high-level Roadmap findings, we’ll highlight one of the key financial case studies developed for the Roadmap: Kansas-based Central Grazing Company’s work to develop a U.S. processing chain for their leather. In this effort they have worked with the fifth-generation family-owned tannery Pergamena Leathers in NY state, which is receiving increasing requests to process hides from other regenerative ranchers–leather that is in demand from brands like Timberland and others. Panelists will describe their perspectives on the financial needs of this supply chain from three perspectives – rancher / business owner, supply chain partner, and investor. We will also feature the work of the Native American Fiber Program, which provides business technical assistance to Tribes to develop Native-owned fiber processing projects.
If audience numbers allow, attendees will then break into 3 groups to consider other case studies from the Roadmap, structuring these along the Roadmap’s geographic cluster approach with case studies from the Southeast, Northeast, and California. If not, case studies will be briefly presented and then offered as handouts.
Roadmap case studies are still under active development, but these may include:
- A North Carolina training center’s idea for a small-scale $100K fund to support fiber system entrepreneurs’ prototyping with U.S.-grown fibers;
- Equipment capital needs for a several Midwest tribes working to develop Native-owned hemp manufacturing;
- Opportunities for a Northeast alpaca fiber processor to modernize supply chain management and encourage regenerative land management practices among its 4500 alpaca farm suppliers;
- Groundbreaking work by a California textile mill to reconnect a local and climate beneficial wool supply chain; and
- Early-stage research support for a cooperative group of African-American farmers in the Southeast to increase hemp production and processing for fiber use.
The Roadmap Case studies will be presented in the form of 1-2 page handouts excerpted from the report. Each case study will present basic business information, supply chain connections, and financing/investment needs. Attendees in the small groups will discuss connections with their current funding and investment and assess how case studies could be supported with integrated capital approaches, drawing on the geographic focus and connections within each group.
Jacqueline Smith, Owner, Central Grazing Co.
Central Grazing is a woman-owned, Kansas based grassfed lamb business that is diversifying into using its hides, formerly described as “waste,” to create a new line of value-added leather goods. We have interviewed Jacqueline for the Roadmap project and she shared deep expertise on the topic as well as a passionate but also practical approach to her financial and business development. https://centralgrazingcompany.com/
Jesse Meyer, Co-Owner, Pergamena Leathers
Stephen was highly recommended by Jacqueline Smith as a key supply chain partner. Pergamena is the only vegetable-tanned leather tannery in the US. We interviewed and his brother Stephen for the Roadmap and they provided specific details on the growing demand they are seeing from regenerative farmers seeking to market hides as well as meat, their own interest in expanding Pergamena’s capacity to meet this demand, and the challenges they have found with accessing capital and investment. We think Pergamena would be a great complement to Jacqueline’s story in showing the direct way that fiber/textile industry investment can help support the expansion and profitability of regenerative agriculture. https://www.pergamena.net/
Fred Briones, Native American Fiber Program
Fred Briones is the founding Director of the Native American Fiber Program and acts as the head of tribal relations for the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation. He provides business technical assistance for tribes seeking to develop fiber production processing industries for hemp and other fibers. Fred is an enrolled tribal member at the Big Valley Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians. He has been weaving baskets for the past 20 years and was inspired to begin weaving by his grandmother who reminded him of the power in the baskets related to the ability to unlock his dreams. Fred also works as a business strategy consultant for First Nations Development Institute. Fred has B.A. Chemistry and M.B.A from the University of Hawaii system.
Impact Investor, TBD
We will draw on our expert Advisors Committee members (see www.safsf.org/fibers) or our 50+ interviewees to select an impact investor who has engaged in the area of sustainable fiber textiles to share investor perspectives and engage in dialog with our other panelists.