Field to Fabric: The Story of American Cotton Growers

Field to Fabric: The Story of American Cotton Growers

Field to Fabric: The Story of American Cotton Growers

Field to Fabric: The Story of American Cotton Growers

Synopsis

From its beginnings, American Cotton Growers strove toward ever more effective processing and marketing of the cotton grown on the High Plains. The men who were the driving force behind ACG realized what enormous benefits were possible if the cotton that was grown here and ginned here could also be processed, spun, and woven into fabric before it was shipped elsewhere. Transforming their vision into the construction and successful operation of a denim mill was an enormous gamble. Only with the mutual support, respect, and sheer stick-to-itiveness of ACG members, bankers, and Levi Strauss & Co. would this venture pan out- as indeed it did. Eventually comprising not only the successful denim mill but also 27 participating gin communities, the organization proved a venerable pioneer in agribusiness. Since the early 1900s, cotton has shaped the economy and growth of the Texas High Plains. Against the backdrop of the burgeoning West Texas cotton industry, Field to Fabric details the workings of its most vigorous proponent. Woven like the sturdy denim they produced are the expectations, strategies, and interactions of men who could see the future. Yet not even the organization's visionaries could anticipate how widespread their influence would be- that the entire cotton industry would feel their impact. The efforts of those who founded and nurtured ACG led to industry acceptance of high-volume-instrumentation classification and utilization of open-end spinning for short-staple cotton. Through the reflections of the builders and supporters of ACG, Field to Fabric conveys the vitality that forged this successful West Texas enterprise, and the trials and tribulations to which it refused to succumb.

Excerpt

This is the story of an American enterprise. It was called American Cotton Growers (ACG), and it was a West Texas agricultural cooperative. It lived less than 17 years, from early in 1973 until September of 1989. Then it passed into history. Seventeen years is a short time as successful enterprises go, and this was a very successful enterprise. But as the act of picking up the book will attest, this is not a short story. The 17 years of ACG were filled with people and events that surged through their time and place like storm waters down a canyon riverbed.

Why write a history of a West Texas cotton cooperative? One reason that should be approached head-on is that American Cotton Growers retained the author to write their story. Cynics may think this self-serving, but it is not at all unusual for an organization to retain someone to write its history, particularly with good reason to see the history as special or noteworthy. When the organization is a cooperative comprised of thousands of owner-members who have invested their livelihoods in it, as was ACG, the case is all the more compelling. They have a right to the pleasure and pain of memories. They also have a right to facts that may have escaped their notice and points of view they may not have heard before, whether they reinforce or refute their own.

Those who might criticize a business for contracting to have its own history written should note that failed enterprises do not write histories. If an organization is successful, the decisions and actions of those responsible should be recorded for posterity. Thousands of enterprises fail every year and slip beneath the waves of American business, most leaving barely a ripple and certainly not a study of what was done, and how, and by whom. One can only imagine how much their former owners, members, or employees would . . .

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