One of the nation’s few events offering the public an on-the-ground look at cotton production returns next month in the San Joaquin Valley.

Growing in popularity over the past decade, the annual Cotton Tour attracts an increasing cross section of consumers, apparel company representatives and textile industry officials from across the country, offering a unique behind-the-scenes look at how San Joaquin Valley growers are reshaping the future of California’s $700 million-a-year cotton industry. The free event is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19.

Growers, public officials and leading University of California experts and farm advisors will provide insights about conventional cotton cultivation and the Sustainable Cotton Project’s Cleaner Cotton production in the heart of the Central Valley. Participants will inspect the crop before harvest, meet with farmers and visit a cotton gin during the tour.

Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh. Registration is required and details are available under the events section of the SCP website.

The annual tour also highlights the successful efforts of SCP growers, who follow sustainable agriculture and biointensive integrated pest management practices to reduce the application of the most toxic pesticides used in cotton production.

“People in the fashion industry rarely have the opportunity to experience cotton cultivation first-hand. These tours bring together farmers, brokers, supply chain partners and brands to understand the challenges and possibilities of making changes in the cotton industry,” said Lynda Grose, SCP marketing consultant. “This experience stays with people for years.”

Founded in 1996, the Sustainable Cotton Project is a California nonprofit that has worked with valley growers to produce Cleaner Cotton and bring the fiber through the textile supply chain to a wide variety of markets.