So how did Patagonia decide to grow textiles in San Luis Valley, Colorado – well Patagonia Workwear, a popular brand of outerwear, has been employing hemp fabric in its line of workwear clothing for nearly a decade, using the durable fibers to manufacture pants, jackets and overalls.
Hemp Fiber Seed or CBD Hemp Seed Varieties
Under a new pilot program between Patagonia and the State of Colorado, the company secured hemp seeds from China for Wright-Oaks Farms in the San Luis Valley that will eventually produce hemp that will be used to make fabric.
Planting For Hemp Fiber
In Colorado’s San Luis Valley, two potato and barley farmers are placing their bets on a drought-tolerant crop—industrial hemp, Shannon Wright and his son-in-law Dion Oakes created Wright-Oakes Farm, along with soil scientists from Colorado State University and Patagonia’s current hemp textile supplier from China which is instructing the Wright-Oakes Farm.
Bring Hemp Home: Colorado From Patagonia (YouTube)
How Did Colorado, Patagonia and Wright-Oakes Farm Come Together
When Patagonia came to Denver during the Outdoor Retailer trade show in 2019 to discuss the possibility of working with an industrial hemp farm in the U.S., Colorado Gov. Jared Polis seized up the opportunity. Ed Aumen, business unit director, fieldwear at Patagonia said Colorado was willing to find enough acres in the state to do a test plot for the upcoming season.
Gov. Jared Polis’ office connected Patagonia with Wright-Oakes Farms in Colorado’s San Luis Valley for a 500-acre test plot, but without the seeds and proper machinery, there could be no crop.
Patagonia’s Chinese hemp supplier, who had been at the Denver meeting, provided the seeds. The Chinese supplier would also provide expertise and even send essential hemp harvesting machinery to Colorado (decortication machine). The plan was to send the U.S. hemp to China to manufacture into clothing (the U.S. does not have the infrastructure to do this) so the supplier would still benefit.
Wright-Oakes Farms harvested 500 acres of hemp and stored it in a shed while Patagonia sent samples to China to test it in the machinery and process it into a first-quality fiber that can be spun into a yarn, which can then be crafted into Patagonia textiles. Although it has not set an exact date, Patagonia plans to begin selling work wear made with U.S. hemp in the next few years, possibly as soon as 2023.