When you work in the agri-business field, people just naturally expect you to be a walking Wikipedia when it comes to farm related matters. I receive at least a dozen calls a day from people asking for advice on topics ranging from growing peanuts to how many bones are in a chicken’s neck.
Another thing that John Q. Public holds the agricultural community accountable for is sustainability.
Personally, I’m all about being self-sufficient, but I realize not everyone has the size, space, or lack of mental aptitude to grow a garden, run a few chickens, or look good in a pair of overalls. However, there is one type of farming where even apartment dwellers in New York City can be successful.
Bellybutton lint farming
Millions of people are walking around right now with huge blossoms of lint bursting out of their bellybuttons, unaware of the cash crop lurking in their mid-section. This renewable resource can be recycled into clothing, newsprint, and a milk substitute for those who are lactose intolerant. You don’t need a horticulture degree to grow high-quality bellybutton lint, just fertile conditions and an inverted navel.
Many of you are looking down right now, wondering if your bellybutton is deep enough to grow a decent crop. You may even be sticking your finger in the hole and measuring with your thumbnail to gauge your capacity for lint production. Have no fear. You don’t have to have a cavity the size of Mammoth Caverns to turn a profit in bellybutton lint. Sure, you may have to harvest more often than the big-navel farmers, but whether you pick once a day or once a week, it really doesn’t matter as long as you store it properly while waiting to collect enough for a bale.
There are several custom storage containers on the market today specifically designed for the collection of bellybutton lint. But almost anything will do as long as it’s breathable and easy to open and close. I know one farmer who uses a pair of Big Mama panty hose.
“They’re easy to get into and expandable. By the time you stuff both legs and the bubble-butt area,” exclaims the enthusiastic grower, “you can get a hundred pounds in there. We keep an extra pair next to the recliner in the family room. These are especially handy when guests drop by. Just last week, we harvested half-a-pound from a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses who came by handing out religious tracts.”
Another advantage of lint farming is the entire crop can be grown and harvested without the aid of tractors and expensive farm implements. There are no diesel fumes polluting the atmosphere or chemical run-off to harm the environment. You don’t have to sit and watch the weather report twice a day, worrying about drought, floods, or swarms of locusts devouring your profits. Occasionally, a dog tick might try to take up residence in your money-maker, but it’s nothing a little rubbing alcohol and a pair of tweezers can’t take care of.
Lint can be grown year round, although production in the U.S. tends to drop off in the summer months due to the number of people running around with exposed navels.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the seasonal peak in the contiguous forty-eight states typically occurs on Valentine’s Day. Most of the population is dressed in layers in February and the additional belly-to-belly contact brought on by holiday celebrations has been proven to stimulate lint growth and reproduction—providing participants keep their shirts on before, during, and after all vigorous physical contact.
Experts agree that crops can be doubled or even tripled by wearing ratty or threadbare clothing. Many name-brand manufacturers were quick to seize the opportunity and began offering lines of apparel specifically designed to meet the needs of lint farmers. To the casual observer, these tattered shirts, blouses, and pants give the wearer an appearance of having lost a wrestling match with an angry weed-eater.
The one demographic who has shown the most interest in this new line of clothing is America’s youth. It does my heart good to see so many young people taking an interest in farming. To show encouragement and support for this behavior, the Secretary of Agriculture has recommended the formation of a new vocational program, Future Lint Farmers of America (FLFA), be adopted by our nation’s high schools.
“When my daughter first started wearing shredded tops, I thought it was disgusting,” says one mother. “Why would anyone want to go out in public looking so tacky? Then she pulled up what was left of her blouse and showed me a ball of lint the size of a grapefruit sprouting from her bellybutton. I was so proud, I burst into tears.
“Joining the FLFA has given Bobbi Jo a sense of purpose and helped her self-esteem,” says her father, sporting a grin bigger than Texas. “She’s one of the top growers in her class and will be representing our state at nationals this spring. Her mother and I couldn’t be happier.”
Lint farmers are also banding together to form cooperatives. These organizations give small growers the same purchasing power as the giant corporate lint farms and provide members a hassle-free avenue for selling their crop at top market pricing. In addition to these benefits, the collectives host seminars to help new growers maximize their production and overcome the lingering stigma associated with bellybutton lint farming.