After spending years trying to discover a way to connect her family’s third-generation farm with others, Tracy Woodard had a dream in 2017 that laid out the premise of Covered in Cotton. The mother of three knew the cotton they grew could be used to create linens and that these products could be used not only to tell their story but to share a bigger story of agriculture.
In 2018, alongside her husband, Ty, Woodard co-founded Covered in Cotton, a Darlington, South Carolina-based company that manufactures 100 percent cotton linens made from cotton that is ‘cultivated and crafted in the Carolinas.’
All of the cotton is grown at the Woodard’s farm in South Carolina which was purchased by Tracy’s husband Ty’s grandfather, Frank Woodard Jr., in 1962. Today, Ty Woodard, his father, and his brother run the farm. In addition to growing cotton, the family grows corn, soybeans, peanuts, and raises cattle. Covered in Cotton is driven by a mission to cultivate.
Tracy Woodard told Consensus during a phone interview, “We had talked about trying to find something to connect our farm with other people because there are so many misconceptions about farmers and where our food comes from, and just how agriculture works in our country altogether. We’re really passionate about sharing that story and showing people that we’re real live people with our own families. We could never think of any good ideas, and so when that dream came that was like, ‘well, this is it!’”
Kindness is woven into the company’s operations. For every ten throw blankets sold, Covered in Cotton donates one to a South Carolina children’s hospital through its Cotton with a Cause program.
The idea for the initiative stems from 2015, when the couple’s son, Tobin, battled for his life in the hospital after contracting bacterial meningitis having to undergo emergency brain surgery. Woodard recalls that during the experience, Ali – their first nurse when Tobin was admitted – gave the family a blanket as a gift. The warmth and comfort that the gift offered the Woodard’s inspired them to “Cotton with a Cause,” with the hope that their donations could do the same for other children. So far, Covered in Cotton has donated more than 360 throws.
Woodard says that on the same morning as our interview, she received a sweet reminder of the good that the donation program does for others.
“I got a message this morning from a mom who has a child that has to be in a bariatric chamber, and the only thing that can be in that chamber is cotton,” Woodard said. “She posted on Instagram this picture of her sweet little 10-month old boy in that chamber, covered in that blanket that she received from a donation that we made in Greenville, South Carolina, and messaged me like “thank you so much for this donation.” Woodard says that sharing hope with others through donations is the best part of the job.
Covered in Cotton manufactures its products entirely in the U.S., and are made by small businesses near the family’s farm. Several small businesses in North and South Carolina comprise the production chain.
“Everything is about a 500-mile round trip and no one piece of the puzzle is more than 150 miles from our farm,” said Woodard. “The fact that we’re able to keep things so local and really know and get to visit and see the communities that these businesses are a part of is really something we didn’t set out for because we had no idea where this would take us. But that’s just been one of the most special blessings we’ve been able to see–to keep it all made entirely in the Carolinas.”
The Covered in Cotton co-founder recalled the first time she received product samples back at the end of the cotton’s journey from plant to product.
“When we got our first samples back with our yarn after like nine months of putting all of these pieces together I just cried over them because it was just this incredible moment of seeing an idea come together,” Woodard explained.
Covered in Cotton has also turned to supporting other small businesses and farms in the area by partnering with them to curate a ‘Homegrown at Home Box Collection.’
“Our first one was a Snack and Snuggle Box that had one of our throws and some locally grown and made peanuts and some locally grown and made kettle corn. That was a really cool gift for people to send.” For every 10 sold, Covered in Cotton donated one box to a healthcare worker, and Woodard says they plan to release more in the coming weeks.
Sustainability is important on the Woodard’s farm. Precision soil sampling, no-till farming, GPS technology for efficiency, and water conservation methods are all used to ensure that the environment and land are being preserved for future generations.
Online retail sales have allowed Covered in Cotton to continue to operate despite the coronavirus pandemic. Woodard even says that sales have increased as people have sent their products to friends and family as a way of showing affection.
“We’ve actually seen sales increase because – if you think about it – people are still having birthdays, they are still having babies, still having anniversaries, and you can’t be there like you would in any other year. We’ve just gotten to see this really cool trend of sending a hug with one of our blankets. That’s really special for us to be a part of all of those milestones–life is still happening.”
Two years after launching, Woodard says that knowing that the company’s products trace back to a seed planted at her family’s farm continues to fill her heart with joy.
“It still gets me to this day to hold these products in our hands and know that it came from a seed we planted in the ground and through the hands of our neighbors all throughout the Carolinas.”