- Our Story
Maggie’s Organics has been making high-quality durable and affordable socks and apparel out of organic fibers since 1992. We began quite by accident, when an organic corn farmer in Texas taught us the truth behind conventional cotton. Founder Bená Burda was working with the farmer to improve the quality of his blue corn crop for the tortilla chips she was marketing at the time. The farmer decided that adding cotton into his three year organic crop rotation would improve his Organic corn yields. His experiment worked, and also provided him with 200 acres of Certified Organic Cotton, which he expected Bená to sell! After researching cotton, and learning that this one crop is grown on 3-5% of the world’s cultivated land, and yet uses nearly 10% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of the world’s insecticides, Bena committed herself to utilizing these 200 acres of organic cotton to tell the real story behind conventional cotton clothing.. and Maggie’s Organics was born.
But how to get the word out about this newly discovered environmental calamity? Given our history marketing organic foods, it was natural for us to turn to all of our friends who were natural food entrepreneurs. So we schlepped out to California to exhibit at the 1992 Natural Products Expo trade show (then called the Natural FOODS Expo) with a wall of socks behind us. Food retailers with an existing consumer base concerned about the environment were not exactly eager to sell socks, but we were persistent. And our retailers were and still are both creative and adaptive. After getting our socks placed in stores throughout the US, Maggie’s began to expand our line to include tee shirts and polo shirts, logowear for organic food companies, and as a result began to learn about the very convoluted and confusing apparel production cycle.
We learned first-hand about the working conditions in textile plants while dealing with two ongoing problems: late orders and poor quality. All of our contracts were in the US, where the apparel industry was already working under-capacity due to off-shore competition. Yet we could not get an order for 10,000 first-quality basic tee shirts shipped on time. We began to spend more time in our contract factories, trying to figure out why these problems recurred.
This is when we learned who actually sews the clothes that we all buy: poor and often under-educated workers, mostly women, who are paid by the piece. These workers choose to stay at the same repetitive jobs year after year. This is so they become more efficient at their specific job , in order to provide enough money to feed their families. Constant repetitive motion in turn wreaks havoc on both their bodies and their minds. Most important of all, we realized that worker s in apparel chains are completely disenfranchised from the customers who wear their clothes as well as the companies whose labels they sew.
We began to ask ourselves how we could consider Maggie’s an environmentally responsible company while engaging in such an irresponsible supply chain. We had to find a better way. This is when we met Jubilee House Community, a community development organization that had operated in Nicaragua for over a decade helping victims of natural disasters. JHC worked to find employment for those in need and had access to many workers, both skilled and unskilled. We offered JHC a challenge: If they could create a facility where every worker had a vested interest in our success, and had a way to determine their own success, we would turn all of our sewing contracts over to them. They suggested a worker –ownership model, and after four year of work we created a 100% worker-owned sewing cooperative in Nicaragua called the Fair Trade Zone.
This experience has inspired us to continue pursuing other cooperative projects and to develop relationships with contractors who honor workers’ rights. We have since helped to form two other 100% worker-owned production cooperatives : A cotton gin that processes all of our Nicaraguan cotton, and a sewing cooperative in North Carolina that sews all of our Hairware and Skirts.
In addition to these cooperatives, we worked with Jubilee House Community in Nicaragua to help revive a devastated cotton industry and to convert it to organic farming methods. The grower groups and co-ops we work with in Nicaragua provide livelihoods for over 2000 people, and today their cotton is used in every pair of Maggie’s socks, as well as in our Hairware and Skirts. These Organic cooperative farmers harvest their cotton by hand and use a specific variety of cotton seed, called Melba, which was developed by Nicaraguans to work best in the Nicaraguan climate. Yields have increased each year, and farmers earn over twice what they would for conventional cotton.
Today Maggie’s offers not only a distinct variety of high-quality organic fiber socks, from low-cut footies to heavy wool hiking socks, but also Leggings and Tights, Scarves and Hair Ware, and a new line of Women’s Apparel coming in Spring ‘15. Our goal is to provide soft, durable, everyday comfort with products that will have you reaching into your drawer for day-after-day. All of our products are made from Certified Organic Fibers and using real fair trade practices.
Maggie’s Organics is intricately involved with each step of production of every product we offer, from the field to the finished garment. Our mission is to connect the workers who make our products with the consumers who wear them. To learn more about how each of is products are made, visit our Behind the Label page. We are proud of the relationships we have with every worker in our supply chains and we are honored with the partnerships we have developed throughout our 22 years.
Our mission since the beginning has been to produce and provide comfortable, durable, affordable, and beautiful articles of apparel and accessories made from materials that restore, sustain, and enhance resources, including human, from which they are made. We are inspired by our fulfillment of that mission, and are humbled by how much further we have to go. And through it all we are honestly awed by our customers – consumers, retailers, and distributors – by their commitment, by their support, and by them continuously challenging use to do more.