Farming Flax for Organic Linen (Part 1)

The organic agriculture industry has experienced significant growth. This due in part to people becoming more aware of  the environmental footprint of traditional farming practices. It is also because people have become more concerned about eating food grown with toxic chemicals. If we are concerned about the chemical toxins entering our bodies via the food we eat, then shouldn’t we also be concerned with the chemical toxins that enter our bodies via the clothes we wear? The threat is especially real given that our skin is the largest organ in our bodies and can absorb as much as the stomach can. Thus, it is important for us to consider the type of fabric used in our clothes and know what processing is required to produce that material since it may involve harmful chemicals.

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The flax plant in bulb

Synthetic materials are an environmental nightmare. Their production requires the use of highly toxic chemicals. Not only are these fabrics wasteful to produce, but they do not decay and will forever be a part of our environment. This is why at TapRoot Fibre Lab, we have an ambitious goal to encourage bast (plant) fibre as a component of a sustainable, localized, fashion industry. We are developing a 6-stage, cottage-size processing line that will turn retted flax straw into fine long line linen yarn.

TapRoot Fibre Lab developed out of TapRoot Farms. Owners Josh Oulton and Patricia Bishop produce certified organic, transition to organic, and conventional agricultural products on approximately 300 acres of farmland for their CSA (Community Share Agriculture). Josh and Patricia have ventured into flax cultivation with the vision of growing linen on their farm.

Limiting their environmental footprint is important to them and is reflected in their farming practices. Although parts of their production includes conventional produce, Josh and Patricia strive to avoid anything they feel will do lasting environmental damage and aim to have a fully organic farm by 2020. They do not grow any genetically modified crops. In addition to limiting their environmental footprint, they are dedicated to improving the sustainability of natural resources (water, air, soil, ecosystem) and increasing the biodiversity of land and crops while supporting and growing the local economy. Flax cultivation fits perfectly with their values.

According to the European Confederation of Linen and Hemp, flax respects the environment and preserves the land. Organic flax cultivation is viable, as flax requires no additional water other than rainwater, little to no fertiliser, and is phytosanitary. The Advisory Commission Report to the European Parliament stated that flax cultivation has positive effects on ecosystem diversity as it allows for an “environmental pause”. One hectare of flax can retain 3.7 tonnes of CO2 . Not only is growing flax environmentally friendly, but there is no waste when it is processed as every part of the plant can be utilized. This illustration from the European Confederation of Linen and Hemp shows the many different product possibilities.

linenWe are excited about the work we are doing here at TapRoot Fibre Lab and we love to connect with as many people, communities, and businesses as possible—including you. If you are interested in learning more about our journey, please feel free to contact us. (fibrelab@taprootfarms.ca). We look forward to hearing from you!

*This post is  part 1 of a 3 part series, Visit us next week for Part 2 from Rhea.

Read more about her below and check out other great articles from our contributors:

A Brief Introduction to Ethical Lingerie
What About Us?: Do Women Over 50 Care About Slow Fashion?
Knit together by a dream
City girl at heart
How did I get here and where am I going?
Consuming with Consideration
New Goals
Annaborgia: Fashion for the Vegan Bride

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About the Author

Rhea Hamlin is the Marketing and Communications Specialist at TapRoot Fibre Lab; where she is researching and promoting flax and linen. Rhea has a Business Administration degree with a Major in Marketing and a Minor in Management from Mount Saint Vincent University.

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