At Alcheringa farm, ‘a place of dreams’, local farmer and fashion icon Sam Coulton of Goondiwindi Cotton Farm and Town Tours examines a head of cotton.
“We look for three things to determine its quality: staple length, strength and thickness (the finer, the better).”
Fabrics made from long cotton fibres are considered higher quality, he says.
“Australian cotton is some of the best.”
But it’s more than quality that sets Aussie cotton farmers apart. By adopting modern irrigation methods, our local farmers collectively use less water and rely on fewer fertilisers compared to their overseas contemporaries.
“Australian irrigated lint yields are now the highest of any major cotton-producing country in the world, being about three times the world average—this means Australia cotton growers produce more crop per drop.”
And you’ll find these locally-grown innovations in action at Goondiwindi Cotton’s 2,500-acre property.
Grace Cobb photography
SHOWCASING AUSSIE FARMING INNOVATION
“We produce irrigated cotton and rotational crops year-round,” explains Sam, who swung open the farm gates to guests in 2005.
“Central to the property is a 1km lateral watering system.”
Sam’s dad Keith purchased the former sheep station in 1973. Today, it’s a natural habitat for native animals and water birds including pelicans and black swans.
“Visitors are intrigued at how we channel gravity-fed water around the farm.”
And at Goondiwindi Cotton’s new farm hub, guests learn about the region’s local water system and the Murray Darling Basin.
“I feel very passionate about educating the next generation in this area.”
Visitors also learn about the history of cotton, how it is harvested and turned into fabric. The tour takes in the Gunsynd Memorial and the Natural Heritage Water Park before finishing at Goondiwindi’s fashion house where guests enjoy morning tea.
NURTURING TOURISM WITH GOONDIWINDI COTTON FARM TOURS
The farm and town tours sprang from visitor demand, says Sam.
“Visitors enquired about what they could see and do in the area. I couldn’t get over the genuine interest in cotton and our local agriculture.”
Via tours, Sam could share rarely seen aspects of garment production and encourage visitors to stay.
“So, we grew this idea, bought a mini-bus and today, proudly show over 2,500 visitors annually around our region and farm.”
It’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas.
“I’d say 80 per cent of our guests share a connection with the land. Either as a farmer, via a relative or friend or a connection to a town,” says Sam.
“[And] farming is an intensive job. You’re on call and face many challenges. Some we can control, some we can’t.
“We need to educate tomorrow’s decision-makers … [on] why we do what we do.”
Alcheringa Farm. Pic Andrew Cooney
BUILDING GOONDIWINDI COTTON
Sam always could spot an opportunity. In the 80s, he produced t-shirts for Piping Hot sponsoring training at the local TAFE.
And off the back of this, in 1992, Goondiwindi Cotton was born.
“As demand grew so did our supply chain and I scaled our processes accordingly.”
Moving production overseas was a big decision that enabled significant expansion. In fact, many employees harking back to those early days remain with Goondiwindi Cotton today.
“Finding like-minded manufacturers had its challenges [though] but we did it and we’ve been with them for more than 15 years.”
Today, Goondiwindi Cotton supplies garments to more than 200 stores Australia-wide.
“Our collections are designed locally in Australia alongside marketing, sales and distribution—roughly 80 per cent of the costs.
“Our design team is split between Sydney and Goondiwindi to help keep us in touch with trends, the competition and what’s happening further abroad.”
Sam advocates for the region.
“The Macintyre River provides a beautiful backdrop to the town centre.”
And you can admire it via a stunning sculpture trail that follows the levy bank.
“Our town is rich in history and features the Customs House Museum. A look at agriculture in the region over time,” says Sam.
The well-serviced town boasts a fabulous dining precinct and vast, vibrant retail offerings.
“Our schools, hospitals and sporting facilities are [also] first class.
“And… our community is underpinned by the strength and diversity of the agriculture portfolio surrounding the town.”
An association that Sam, after a 40-year farming career, holds dear.