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Dirt to Shirt educates the next generation

Students at Memphis High School are learning how to grow and harvest cotton courtesy of two fields that border the school campus (Drew Powell ABC 7 News)

Students at Memphis High School are learning how to grow and harvest cotton before graduating. A program called Dirt to Shirt, now in its second year, is proving to be very successful.

The all-encompassing project is preparing a new wave of Ag producers.

“Dirt to Shirt is our cotton project where we take cotton from seed and when we plant it we prepare the fields all the way through the ginning process,” said Sandra Downing, Ag Sciences teacher at Memphis High School. “We even try to track it through the textile mills.”

Now in its second full year the students are learning how to grow cotton and learn about the business side of farming.

“It’s teaching me a lot about the industry and how everything works,” said Mackenzi Vela, student at Memphis High School. “I didn’t know you had to have crop insurance and it’s really teaching me a lot.”

“We learn a lot from just coming out and hoeing the fields or learning about it in the class,” said Danielle Middleton, student at Memphis High School. “You get to know about foods and where your clothes come from. It’s a great experience especially if you don’t come from that background.”

The second crop of harvested cotton generated 22 bales at 500 pounds apiece. Students keep track of expenses and make management decisions for the project. The vast majority of expenses are donated. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the cotton goes toward maintenance of the Ag farm.

“This year we ginned our cotton at Memphis Farmers Gin and they were able to take it straight from the field to the thrasher which means it didn’t sit in the yard,” said Downey. “We didn’t lose any cotton to weather.”

In the first year of Dirt to Shirt the cotton harvested earned $5,200 and this year the hope is to earn $8,000 pending the grade of the cotton. Proceeds raised helps students participate in other projects and programs in agriculture.

“If we didn’t have this we wouldn’t be able to make all those competitions,” said Javan Valle, student at Memphis High School. “We wouldn’t be able to travel everywhere we go to.”

This year, Memphis FFA did a variety trial using Phytogen cotton varieties donated by Phytogen. The cotton was planted in May and harvested in November. The community wide project is benefiting the farm kid and the non-farm kids who have an interest in majoring in agriculture in college.



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