From primary production to designing fine cotton clothing, the Coulton family have put Goondiwindi on the map.
Gundy legend Sam Coulton is a third-generation Goondiwindi farmer. His family settled in the area in 1924 at a property known as ‘GettaGetta’, between North Star and Yetman. Initially sheep and cattle farmers, in 1957 they started irrigating and diversified into growing wheat, barley and sorghum crops. The Coulton family were pioneer irrigators in the district and among the first cotton growers in the Macintyre Valley. In 1978, they planted their first cotton crop on ‘Alcheringa’ on the Boomi Road in Goondiwindi.
Sam recalls that during the years of 1973 and 1982, “the family thought we had 90 to 100 per cent expectancy rate of full water, but due to the number of water licenses that had been given out, the reality we were facing was that we could only expect 29 per cent.” Luckily the 1980s were wet years, but in the late ‘80s the Coulton family worked with the NSW Government on a project to enlarge the Pindari Dam, increasing the water source from 36,000 megalitres to 312,000 megalitres, enabling the water expectancy to be lifted to between 60 and 65 per cent. This development cost $75 million dollars – $35 million funded by the Government, with the balance funded by irrigators repaid as a levy on every megalitre used. The loan was repaid within 15 years. As a result of this and a lot of other work within the industry, Sam’s father Keith was made a Member of the British Empire medal (MBE) for his services to agriculture.
When asked about the size of their farming operation, Sam simply says, “When it’s dry we have too many acres and when it’s wet, we don’t have enough.”
To add value to the fine quality cotton the farm produces, the Coulton family decided to take the raw material and turn it into yarn for knitting. However, they weren’t able to find a buyer, and decided to weave it into cloth instead. As a result, they started working with Australian surfing brand Piping Hot, manufacturing 700,000 T-shirts a year. When this venture finished in 1992, Sam wanted to bring the manufacturing back to Goondiwindi and create jobs locally. As a result, the Goondiwindi Cotton brand was born, initially specialising in 100 per cent cotton T-shirts, rugby jerseys and polos.
Goondiwindi Cotton manufactured in the township until eight years ago when they followed the trend to offshore production. “When we started there were nine spinning mills, now there are none. There used to be a dye house on every corner but that industry shifted offshore. We had to follow the trend and now get our clothing made in China. We have a very close working relationship with the two factories we use, and together we strive to produce the best possible garments,” says Sam.
“Australia grows the best cotton in the world and we are so proud to produce a range of top quality cotton clothing. So much technology has gone into developing the cotton industry. We use technology to reduce wastage; it allows us to reduce the amount of chemicals, water and fuel we are using, and on the other side it also allows us to track a bale from the paddock to the spinners.”
In Goondiwindi at harvest time two cotton gins operate 24 hours a day.
“From sorting, grading and packing to being returned as a Goondiwindi Cotton shirt is amazing – from the cradle to the grave so to speak. We are trying to change the perception the public has of the cotton industry. Thirty per cent of the crop produces cotton seed which is used for cotton seed oil and is a food for cattle and sheep, just like sorghum barley, wheat and other crops.”
Goondiwindi Cotton has been good for the local community, providing employment and a reason to stopand stay a while in Goondiwindi. A definite highlight of visiting the area is the tour of the property and visiting the Goondiwindi Cotton outlet. On average 3,000 people take the Cotton Tour each year, which gives people an opportunity to experience a working cotton farm, visit a cotton gin, learn more about the industry and get to know the town of Goondiwindi a little better.
As a cotton grower, Sam works closely with his design team and is involved in every aspect of the business. He is extremely passionate about the industry and the town of Goondiwindi. His philosophy about the brand is “there’s nothing artificial out here”, which he believes truly reflects the country’s honest and authentic lifestyle.
Goondiwindi Cotton now produces around 40,000 garments per year, and offers comprehensive summer and winter ranges, interpreting global fashion trends to best suit the look of their brand. Along with their own store in Goondiwindi, the label is stocked in over 180 retailers throughout Australia.
Sam’s philosophy has always been to support local retailers and local business. It is extremely important to him to ensure communities, especially in the bush, keep growing. With this in mind, Goondiwindi Cotton has decided to no longer sell current season product online, instead the website showcases the brand by directing consumers to Goondiwindi Cotton stockists throughout Australia.
Built on the old fashioned and honest principles synonymous with people from the Australian bush, the Coulton family and Goondiwindi Cotton take great pride in the quality and durability of their cotton ranges and truly want you to love the garment you buy.