I’ve long been a fan of those stories detailing what I’ll call the “mid-life about face.” You know, those tales about the former lawyer who leaves her practice to start a goat farm in Vermont. Or the ex-judge turned cake-shop owner. Stories detailing complete and total reinvention, showing that it’s truly never too late to change course and drastically alter the direction of your life, are absolutely captivating to me. So, when I came across Country Living‘s story of Susan Gibbs, a former CBS news correspondent who left her crazy job in the Big Apple and set up shop as a sheep farmer, I was hooked.
Not only did Gibbs shed her skin career-wise, she also set precedent with a new form of agriculture — Community Supported Fiber Farms, more commonly referred to as CSFs. Todays “Small Measures” celebrates these mutually beneficial farms, wherein consumer and producer alike glean rewards. Much like their fruit and vegetable kin (which I explored here in detail this past February), such farms operate on the pay-now, reap-later principal. Shareholders put up a predetermined amount of money in advance, with the promise of an allotment of fiber from the farm’s animals in the future, usually each spring and autumn. This quote, from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, further details the ins-and-outs of how fiber CSF’s work:
“Fiber CSA shares range in price from $100 to $180. Most are offered for sale before spring or fall shearing. Some producers specify what the shareholder can expect in return. For example, Willow Ridge Farm of Lucas, Iowa, guarantees that every six to eight weeks, its shareholders will receive their choice of either 3 pounds of roving or up to 1800 yards of handspun Shetland. Before each shipment, shareholders are e-mailed information on color choices, with natural, hand-painted or dyed fiber options. Full shareholders receive six deliveries; half shares receive three.
Other producers are less specific about yield, indicating that the number of skeins will vary depending on the size of the clip. Shares at Serenity Sheep Farm of Montana, priced at $150, for example, will provide from seven to 12 skeins (300 yards or 100 grams) of natural-colored sport weight yarn. Hudson Valley Fiber Farm of New York does not provide information on share volume. However, this farm limits the number of shareholders annually to ensure that each gets a ‘bountiful supply.’”
CLICK HERE for the rest of the post (and great CSF resources) after the jump!
I was in the bath, having a pre-Nugget soak, whilst reading the Country Living article. Instantly, I thought of my buddy Jenna, a young graphic designer/aspiring farmer in upstate New York (she refers to her Vermont-bordering stomping grounds as “Veryork”). Jenna (who has both a fantastic blog, Cold Antler Farm, and book, Made From Scratch, highly recommended for any would-be farmers out there) is in the process of acquiring several pregnant sheep, with the hope of someday becoming a full-time farmer — a life filled with hooves, bleats, hay and mud. Creating Cold Antler Farm shares of fiber seemed right up her alley, so I wrote her straightaway with the idea. Clearly, it appealed to her blog readership as well — no sooner had she posted about the CSF as a novel concept at Cold Antler than all 12 future shares sold out within 4 hours.
Gibbs’ actions with her farm (initially located in Martha’s Vineyard and now found in the lush pasture outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, at Juniper Moon Farm) have inspired a wave of other CSF farms nationwide. A quick perusal online turned up the following CSFs offering shares of everything from sheep and angora to alpaca and merino:
- Hatchtown Farm
- Jacob’s Reward
- Willow Ridge Farm
- Creekside Acres
- Tomorrow Farm
- Grand View Farm
Image from Bird and Little Bird
A number of these farms even offer annual (or biannual) shearing, spinning and dying weekends for their shareholders. Some, such as Juniper Moon, are also set up to provide “farm-stay” vacations during these weekends for an additional fee. With the cooler months rapidly approaching, the idea of having a clean, all-natural source of fiber for knitting and crafting that simultaneously benefits fiber farmers and works to ensure their future is one small measure I can unequivocally get behind. Now, if I can only figure out how to master the knitting part (Note to self: now that Huxley is here, it’s time to resume attending the nearby “stitch and bitch” weekly sessions; that scarf won’t knit itself . . . ).
*As a side note, I’d like to thank all of the D*S readers that left comments on Small Measure surrounding Huxley’s birth. It was indeed a wild and tumultuous ride getting him here. He’s doing great and I’m continuing to heal daily. Hubs and I appreciate your kind and compassionate words more than you can ever imagine! — Ashley