The early collaboration of key innovators from around the world led to the formation of Organic Exchange, incorporated as a charitable organization in 2002. The current board of directors consists of 19 members from 11 countries representing all aspects of the organic cotton value chain. Organic Exchange is a US based, 501(c)(3) organization committed to expanding organic fiber agriculture, with a specific focus on cotton. The seed for the development of a network designed to create and catalyze change in conventional agricultural began in the early 1990’s with conversations between several companies and individuals who were working with organic cotton. It facilitate the creation of solutions that improve environmental quality, enhance the livelihoods of farmers, increase profitability for innovative brands and their business partners, and expand consumer choice. Ms La Rhea Pepper is the Senior Director at Organic Exchange. She has an extensive background in the organic cotton agricultural sector as well as management and marketing. She is a 5th generation cotton farmer in Texas and her farm has been certified organic since 1991. Ms Pepper has extensive business experience having co-founded Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative and served as President/CEO of Cotton Plus and Organic Essentials. Her educational background is in education – she completed her BS in Education at Abilene Christian University in 1979. As a 5th generation farmer, she has a long history of leadership within the sustainable and organic agricultural movement. In 1995, she served on the Administrative Council for Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education and two years later began working with the Organic Fiber Council. She joined the Organic Trade Association’s board in 1998 to work on organic fiber standards for the industry and in 2002 became a member of the Advisory Council of Organic Exchange. Ms Pepper is an authority on organic farming having provided testimony to the Federal Trade Commission, and is a frequent guest speaker. Ms Pepper was one of the co-founders of Organic Exchange and served as Chair of the Board until 2005 at which time she became the Executive Director, serving in that capacity until December of 2008. In a talk with Face2Face team, Ms La Rhea Pepper brings out more about world wide organic cotton market, and her association’s role in it.
Kicking off the conversation, shall we request you a brief on responsibilities entrusted to your association in development of organic cotton sector?
Our Association is entrusted with major responsibility to catalyze global market forces to expand organic fiber agriculture.
Focused on this aim, Organic Exchange is serving as a catalyst that allows many of the social, economic, and environmental issues associated with conventional cotton production to be addressed – environmental issues, climate change, bio-diversity, water quality and utilization, food security, human rights and social issues, as well as poverty in agricultural communities. By facilitating the expansion of organic fiber agriculture, we, in association with our members and stakeholders, can continue to have a positive, significant, visible, and measurable impact on the world.
To support these efforts, we bring together brands and retailers with their business partners, farmers, and key stakeholders to learn about the social and environmental benefits of organic agriculture, and to develop new business models and tools that support greater use of organic inputs. In addition, we raise consumer awareness about the value of organic farming and the availability of products containing organic cotton.
OUR KEY FOCUS AREAS ARE;
-Grow the organic cotton retail market to mirror growth in fiber production
-Build a solid framework to support industry and market integrity
-Be a partner and resource to industry on sustainability issues relevant to organic fibers.
FARM DEVELOPMENT :
-Support the growth of fair and sustainable organic cotton
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.