This is Carolina: Cotton keeps generations of farmers in business

Cotton at the Woodards

DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Not many flowers have a history as rich as the soil it grows in. But cotton does.

We need it like we need anything else to get through the day, and South Carolina families provide it to the world. One South Carolina family has been providing from the family farm since 1962.

“Basically from there you need rain, you need heat and just pray for good conditions,” Ty Woodard told WMBF News.

He said he and his brother planted 33,000 cotton seeds per every thousand acres. During the harvest, they hope to get a thousand pounds of lint from that seed per acre. The family has 2,300 acres of cotton to harvest this year, he said.

“We use cotton for so many things,” Ty said.

“You get up in the morning and you put on your favorite cotton shirt and it feels so easy and effortless. But there’s a lot of work that went into it before then,” Ty’s wife, Tracy Woodard, added.

“Obviously we been growing it for a long time, and been doing it successfully, or we wouldn’t be doing it today, whether it be obviously clothes, money, paper, all those type things. But also, we use the oil from the seed for a variety of reasons as well,” Ty said.

Although the families and farming equipment used to harvest the fiber have changed over the generations, the cotton has always grown the same. From a seed to a flower that dies off, from a boll to sprout and then open. Then, for an extraordinary flower to come out, be harvested six rows at a time at the Woodard farm, go into the cotton picker, be sent to the gin and then the spinner. Then, that cotton becomes what you’re wearing now, even paper and money. It all starts with families like the Woodards, and their farms.

Ty’s grandfather and father have passed farming tricks down to him.

“If you were to pull this out (cottonseed) and you put the seed in your mouth and it cracks, it’s ready to be harvested. And if it’s chewy, then it’s not. That’s the science behind it,” Ty said.

“That’s part of it too, just this tradition of cotton being passed down. That things like that are just tricks of the trade that’s ingrained in this area,” Tracy said of family farming tradition.

"You spend every day, every year, putting your hands to the soil, into a plant, into a seed and this is what we like to call the cotton ‘Super Bowl,’ Tracy said with a laugh.

Unlike other cotton farmers, the Woodards get to literally see their cotton spun into blankets. They own the business, Covered in Cotton. WMBF News did a story on how the business began and why in April.

Since WMBF News aired the story on Covered in Cotton, Tracy has since quit her job to run the business full time. They’ve now added another blanket design, baby blanket and kitchen towel design to their original trio of blanket designs, named for their three children.

The Woodards said this cotton season has been pretty good, but there’s no such thing as a normal rainfall amount anymore because of the hurricanes and floods the past five years.

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