Organic Cotton Fields
Our production process starts with the independent family farmers who grow our organic cotton. For years, the raw material for our socks came from Nicaragua. Then in 2014, changing weather patterns destroyed much of the crop there.
Climate change chased us around the world.
Then in 2019, we heard about organic cotton growers in the east African country of Tanzania, home of the Serengeti and the great migration and an ideal climate for growing cotton. Today, the organic cotton in most of our socks is grown by 1,900 Tanzanian farmers near Mwanza, a town at the southern edge of Lake Victoria. Each of our farmers have, on average, 15 acres of land. In addition to cotton, they grow sorghum, chickpea and mung beans, sunflower, and corn. All farmers must be certified organic for at least six years. Many have worked their project for more than 20 years.
We proudly partner with the bioRe Foundation, which provides our farmers with training facilities, organizes pre-payment for seed, and hires agronomists and others to provide important direction. Key to the project's success are hedge rows, intercropping, shade trees in the fields, etc. Every year, communities present ideas for projects to bioRe, and we help fund the projects. As a result, wells have been built, clean cooking stoves have been installed, and bio-gas facilities that run electricity to area homes have been constructed. As always, we focus on bringing more revenue to or near the farmgate in the communities in which we work.
This is the most challenging stage of sock production. To create the very finest Maggie's Organics socks, the blend of our fiber and twist in our yarn is adjusted each year in accordance with global organic textile standards (GOTS). Our first container of cotton was shipped from Tanzania to India to be spun into yarn. That's a long way to go. So with bioRe, we developed a partnership with Sunflag, a Tanzanian spinner since 1965. Sunflag is SA-8000 and Oeko-tex/GOTS certified, and their workers are supported by a collective bargaining agreement. Our newest containers of yarn are spun in Tanzania and shipped directly to our knitters in North Carolina, so our carbon footprint has been reduced substantially.
Every pair of Maggie's Organics socks is knit by one of three independent family knitters in North Carolina. Together, they are living proof of the tenacity and perseverance of the American spirit. One knitter outside of Raleigh works the mill that's been in the family for generations, and still provides health care to their employees. Another knitter is a third-generation techie bringing new seamless toe machines to his grandpa's business. We process and purchase our own organic cotton yarn. That's unusual in the apparel industry. As a result, our knitters are producing our socks before investing in their main raw material. With each purchase order we make, our knitters use the yarn we at Maggie's own, and bill us as if it's theirs. We deduct the cost of the yarn, but we pay them as a full-package vendor. This helps their cash flow and assures us both that our organic yarn is tracked through every step of production. Our financial advisors think we're crazy, acting like a bank to our vendors. But we see it differently. We could move all of our sock production off-shore. We would have to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of yarn in advance. That would save us 30+%. But we believe in partnering with our suppliers. It helps us secure good quality organic cotton. And we help grow manufacturing jobs in the US. A win-win-win-win situation.
Dyeing & Finishing
Every pair of Maggie’s Organic Cotton Socks is dyed and finished in North Carolina U.S.A. We work directly with our dyemasters, and at times we challenge their technical methods. When we brought the idea of hand-made, time-cured Tie Dye socks to our Burlington dyemaster, a true leap-of-faith was required. Special curing racks were built, and many hands and minds worked countless hours to meld together two worlds. Since adding yarn-dyeing to our sock line in 2012, we have begun to work with another American owned -and- operated dyehouse, in business since 1943. Best of all, EPA-enforcement of US dye standards means we know our low-impact dye criteria is followed. Frequent and honest interaction with many employees at our production facilities is what we call real fair trade.