Farm To Feet—Yup, Socks Get Sustainable

By Radha Marcum
Senior Editor

Tough but tailored outdoor socks are a staple for any outdoor enthusiast. They’re more durable, moisture wicking and comfortable—and if they’re a pair from the Farm To Feet brand, they also come with a truly transparent supply chain. Farm To Feet sources and manufactures every part of their wool-blend socks—from reinforced toe to minimalist packaging—in the US.

Today’s wool has come a long way since the yesteryears of shapeless, thick, shrink-prone, itchy weaves. That’s because quality next-to-skin wool (merino) has become more widely available, processing technology has improved the fiber’s durability and comfort, and wool blends and weaves (with nylon, elastics and other fibers) have improved. Farm To Feet’s wool is sourced from US ranchers who belong to the American Sheep Industry Association, which promotes humane treatment of animals.

Farm To Feet was born when Nester Hosiery, a multigeneration family business in North Carolina, recognized the opportunity to turn a thriving sock business into a brand with fully transparent supply chain: 100 percent American materials, manufacturing and workers. “The Nester family has a legacy of farming in this region,” explains David Petri, Farm To Feet’s vice president of marketing. “The Nesters started the hosiery business in the early 1990s, when they were no longer able to make a living as farmers.”

Prior to launching Farm To Feet in 2013, Nester Hosiery made socks for many outdoor brands like Patagonia—brands that were “similarly minded, in sustainability and minimizing environmental impact,” says Petri. Farm To Feet’s socks are knit and packaged in North Carolina. Before that, “the wool has to be degreased, processed and spun” by other US-based partners. Once the socks are finished, they even get US-sourced packaging.

Farm To Feet’s green commitment isn’t just steam. Petri, a former nuclear engineer for the navy, originally joined the company as its sustainability chief. Under his guidance, Nester Hosiery updated equipment—replacing water-intensive washing machines with a steam system that performs the same function, for example—reducing water consumption by about 40 percent.

They have also increased the amount of waste materials diverted from landfill to approximately 85 to 90 percent. In addition to diverting paper and cardboard, the company sends scraps to a textile recycler. Next step? Certification by bluesign®, a third-party certifier that grants its seal for a strict set of sustainable, nontoxic textile manufacturing practices (www.bluesign.com). “We’d like to be a leader for suppliers and other companies to take that step with us,” says Petri.

Bottom line: Retailing for $14 to $27 per pair, these socks’ journey to my feet fits as well as their shape. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hike our foothills in Farm To Feet’s “Boulder” sock.

For more about the socks and Farm To Feet’s sustainability commitment, visit www.farmtofeet.com.