It's not often that two ends of the cotton supply chain get together, but it did last week in the Macquarie Valley when growers and processors played host to more than a dozen cotton brand and retail representatives for two days.
"From an industry viewpoint we are so far apart from each other and there are so many bits in the middle, but when we do connect something really magical happens," said Cotton Australia supply chain manager, Brooke Summers.
During this first visit to the Central West region's cotton growing fields members of the garment industry, people from major brands and retail chains and stores took, the opportunity to inspect Auscott Cotton gin and fields at Warren, and walk through the paddocks that are currently being picked at the Browning Family's Narramine Station, Narromine.
Ms Summers, who has been with Cotton Australia for nearly 20 years, began her career in a communications role. Five years ago the organisation began more indepth talking a bit further down the supply chain so she was handed the task of initiating discussion with brands and retailers to use more cotton in their supply chain.
"Also just as important, not exclude Australian cotton on the basis of sustainability, transparency or traceability which is becoming more and more important to brands and retailers, especially globally," Ms Summers said.
"This is the fifth year we have taken representatives out to our growers as we believe the best way to show our clients where their fabric begins, is to have them meet the farmers."
For the past four years tours have been at Narrabri in day trips.
This year 26 people, 12 of which were brand and retailer representatives took part on the overnight stay in Macquarie Valley for the first time.
"Macquarie growers are seriously good people and they were absolutely superb showing our party what cotton growing is all about," Ms Summers said. "They answered all questions and visitors could see how open and transparent our industry is.
"They just came away completely blown away with the innovation in this industry, the way we collaborate, and by how open we are and what we have been able to achieve by way of sustainability.
"It was so successful because the manufacturing and retail industry people could meet and put faces to our growers' industry."
Farmers took the guests out to a barbecue dinner and camp fire at Amanda Thomas and family's Glebe Island on Gunningbar Creek, Warren, meeting with locals and Aboriginals who performed the "Welcome to Country" prior to traditional dances.
A local octogenarian farmer Tony McCalary, who funded the Warren Aboriginal Youth Foundation to help local kids into employment, was also among guests.
Ms Summers said he was one of the first cotton farmers in the region who set up after Auscott and told of the social story of cotton.
"Cotton growers contribute huge amounts for their local communities but don't really talk about it enough," she said.
"We also drove past pink bales in paddocks, big round bales covered with pink wrap that have been donated by growers to the McGrath Foundation to support regional breast cancer nurses."
The party had an inspection of Auscott's cotton gin at Warren and on the second day a tour of the Browning family's Narromine Station cropping property.
Jodi Browning and son, Billy, have also been very successful in dryland farming having won the Suncorp Bank/Agricultural Societies Council Dryland field wheat regional competition on two occasions.
"Apparently they have 19 immediate neighbours, so their farming practices are beyond expectation," Ms Summers said.
"Some of these brands and retailers on the tour are already sourcing Australian cotton while some are wanting to source it and I have received a couple of emails already asking how do they get going."
This season 20,000 hectares of cotton was planted in the Macquarie Valley and picking is still on the go with early predictions of growers gaining close to 11 bales per hectare. All up in NSW 132,400ha of irrigation cotton was planted while there was another 92,730ha of dryland crop planted.
The average yield for irrigated crop so far this year is 9.7 bales/ha with from zero to 2 b/ha the dryland yield. Many dryland crops will not be harvested this year as they have failed from the drought.
Crops with yields above 0.75b/ha are economic but anything less has been let go.