The VF Foundation Supports the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund
In recent years, the move to be more “sustainable” has gained momentum across all types of industries, including fashion and apparel. But when it comes to agriculture, being sustainable is simply not enough. Instead, a regenerative approach to farming goes a step further.
“Regenerative agriculture” encompasses a variety of environmentally and socially conscious practices which aim to help support biodiversity, enhance water cycles, improve soil health and sequester carbon. This approach not only changes growing practices and helps improve the lives of farmers, it helps replenish and strengthen the soil, plants, and the surrounding nature.
To catalyze the scaling of regenerative practices in the United States, The VF Foundation recently provided a grant to the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund (USRCF) that will help advance the adoption of soil health management systems across more than 1 million acres of U.S. cotton cropland. This unique, farmer-facing, science-based initiative supports long-term, regenerative cotton production in the U.S., with the goal of eliminating one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the atmosphere by 2026.
“This initiative complements VF’s global sustainability efforts to advance regenerative agricultural practices as part of its roadmap to meet its science-based targets by taking a farmer-centric approach to scale these cotton growing practices and measure their impacts,” said Gloria Schoch, Executive Director, The VF Foundation and Senior Director of Global Impact, VF Corporation. The VF Foundation’s seed funding directly contributes to the Institute’s efforts in Texas, where approximately 60% of U.S. cotton is grown.
The Foundation’s support helps establish farmer-to-farmer mentoring networks, conduct economic analysis of regenerative soil health systems, and establish Soil Health and Soil Carbon Targets so growers know how healthy their soils can become and how much carbon can be sequestered through these practices.
In addition to being a proud Sustaining Supporter in the USRCF, The VF Foundation is also helping to power the Soil Health Institute’s first internship class. The USRCF Internship Program is dedicated to establishing career paths for underrepresented students and empowering them to be leaders and decision-makers in U.S. agriculture. The summer internship program will engage undergraduate students studying at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, fueling greater diversity, equity and inclusion in agriculture careers.
Dr. Loutrina Staley, soil scientist and director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Soil Health Institute said, “These students are the future of agriculture. They will be an integral part of our work to stand up the USRCF. At the Soil Health Institute, we are deeply committed to current and future generations, and empowering historically underrepresented communities.”
“We are proud to support the expansion of the Soil Health Institute’s Internship Program to advance diversity and inclusion in sustainable agriculture,” said Schoch. “Facilitating greater access and education to students enrolled in HBCUs to help advance their agriculture-focused careers is a key step in expanding regenerative practices and ultimately mitigating climate change.”
All students will work alongside the Institute’s scientists and educators in one or more programs, including Soil Health and Carbon Targets, Soil Health Education, Soil Microbiome Research, and Soil Health Economics. As part of their internship, students will engage cotton farmers, advisors, and other stakeholders to increase adoption of regenerative soil health systems and build added resilience and profitability benefits to farmers, while mitigating climate change and promoting other environmental benefits.
Since its launch, the USRCF has been recognized as an AIM for Climate Innovation Sprint Partner at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference.